Danielle teaches at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She holds a Doctor of Education with research concentration in Study Abroad and Foreign Language Acquisition.
Making Nouns Plural in Spanish
Well, you've learned about el libro and la mesa, but we're not always talking about just one thing. Singular is great, but what about plural? What if we want to say books, tables, countries or cities? Vamos, let's find out. It's easy if the word ends in a vowel. For any word that ends in a vowel, just add '-s:'
- libro becomes libros.
- mesa becomes mesas.
- chico becomes chicos.
- chica becomes chicas.
Let's stop here for a moment, because, if you realize it yet or not, you're about to have a question for me! Over there's a group of guys (chicos), and over there's a group of girls (chicas), right? Which leads us to the inevitable question: what if it's a group of guys and girls together? Well, then Spanish goes back to the original '-o' sound. A group of guys and girls together would be described as los chicos even though there are chicas in the group. Thus, you use the masculine plural form of the noun to describe any group that includes both males and females.
Now, let's move on. Words that end in consonants are a little different. Instead of just adding '-s,' you add '-es:'
- ciudad becomes ciudades.
- país becomes países.
- profesor becomes profesores.
- postal becomes postales.
There is a weirdo rule here, as always in grammar, and this is it: if the word ends with a '-z,' you change the z to c and add '-es.'
- lápiz becomes lápices.
- luz becomes luces.
- actriz becomes actrices.
Plural Definite Articles
So, now we know how to make nouns plural, but what about that pesky definite article that always seems to stick around? You've already learned the definite articles - el and la - for singular nouns, but they won't work for plural nouns. If the noun is plural, the definite article has to be plural, too. The plural definite articles in Spanish are los and las. So, what does that mean exactly? It means that el, la, los and las all mean 'the' in Spanish! Four words for our one word, because nouns and articles in Spanish must agree in both gender and number. Gender refers to masculine or feminine, and number refers to singular or plural. Let's break it down:
|el = the (masculine)||los = the (masculine)|
|la = the (feminine)||las = the (feminine)|
Now we need to put it all together. Think of it like a puzzle. All the pieces have a place and they all have to fit!
Let's see: libro. How do we make it plural? Well, does it end in a vowel? Yes. So we know we add -s. Libros. Now, is it masculine or feminine? Masculine. So, which definite article goes with masculine, plural nouns? Los! So, los libros means 'the books.' Los matches libros. For all you science people out there, think of it as a chemical equation - it has to be balanced. El does not match libros. This would be a lopsided equation! Los, however, matches libros. Fantástico! Now, it's balanced.
On to mesa. How do we say more than one mesa? Does it end in a vowel? Yes, so just add -s. Is it masculine or feminine? Feminine. Which definite article is feminine plural? Las! Las mesas means 'the tables.'
How about profesor in the plural form? Does it end with a vowel? No, it ends with a consonant. So, we can't just add -s. We have to add -es. Profesores. Is it masculine or feminine? Masculine. Which definite article is masculine plural? Los. Los profesores means the professors.
One more - lápiz. Plural? Lápizes? Wait a minute, rewind! Lápiz ends with a z. We change z to c and then add our -es. Much better. Lápices. Now, is it feminine or masculine? Masculine. Definite article? Los. Los lápices. Fantástico! Wow! We've covered a lot in this lesson.
- To make Spanish words plural, adding -s on the end will often work, because so many words end in a vowel. Chico? Chicos. However, for words that end with consonants, you add -es. Lección? Lecciones. For words that end in -z, change the z to c, and then add -es. Actriz? Actrices.
- There are four ways to say 'the' in Spanish - the singular definite articles you already know (el and la) and the plural definite articles from today's lesson (los and las). Nouns and their definite articles must agree in order to be correct. El for masculine singular, la for feminine singular, los for masculine plural and las for feminine plural - as seen in the following: el libro and los libros, and la mesa and las mesas.
- For any group that includes both males and females, you use the masculine plural form of the noun. Guys and girls together are chicos. Guys and girls who are friends are amigos. Guys and girls who are classmates? Compañeros.
Whew! And this is how you make nouns plural in Spanish. Hasta luego!
Finishing this lesson should enable you to:
- Identify the plural forms of Spanish words that end in a vowel or a consonant
- Explain the rule for the plural forms of Spanish words that end in 'z'
- Understand which gender of the noun to use for groups that include males and females
- Match the correct definite articles to Spanish plural nouns
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