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Read this and master Spanish nouns

Read this and master Spanish nouns

¡Hola, amigas y amigos de SpanishCompadres.com! Welcome to a new Spanish learning post. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know in order to master Spanish nouns.

Spanish nouns are called “sustantivos” /sus-tan-ti’-vos/. Spanish nouns can be classified into two general categories: proper (propios) and common (comunes). Proper nouns in Spanish include names of people (Juan, María, Diego), names of countries [Chile, Argentina, Brasil], cities and towns [Santiago, Buenos Aires, Brasilia] , institutions [Universidad de Chile, Gobierno de la Nación, Ministerio de Educación], titles [Sr., Sra., Srta. (Mr., Mrs., Miss)]. Common nouns in Spanish include abstract concepts [la verdad (truth), la sinceridad (honesty), una idea (an idea)], concrete objects, people or animals [una casa (a house), un anciano (an old man), el perro (the dog)].

In this article, we’ll be looking at each type of noun, singular and plural forms, masculine and feminine forms, definite and indefinite article. We have included some quick multiple choice practice exercises at the end of the article for you test your knowledge of Spanish nouns. 

 

Tabla de contenidos (Table of contents)

 

What are Spanish nouns?

According to the Spanish Royal Academy (RAE), “sustantivo” simply means “name”. Nouns are gender-specific words that designate people, animals or things. Nouns are usually the main part of the subject of a sentence. Nouns can be proper or common. Proper names don’t have a meaning of their own and are used to name people, animals or things as individual entities (Marta, Granada, Orinoco). In contrast, common nouns do have a meaning of their own and designate any of the people, animals or things of the same class [bombero (fireman), pez (fish), idea (idea)]. Common nouns are classified into the following types:

  • Concrete and abstract nouns
  • Collective nouns
  • Countable and uncountable nouns
  • Action nouns

Let’s look at the definition and examples of each type of Spanish noun.

 

Types of Spanish nouns

 

Proper nouns

Proper nouns are used to name people, animals or things as individual entities. They do not have a meaning on their own. Examples:

  • Hola. Me llamo Roberto. (Hi. My name is Roberto.)
  • Vivo en Costa Rica. (I live in Costa Rica.)
  • ¿Verás la pelea del “Chino” Maidana? (Will you watch the “Chino” Maidana fight?
  • La Edad Media fue un periodo importante. (The Middle Ages were an important period.)
  • Mi mascota se llama Rex. (My pet’s name is Rex.)

 

Proper nouns are always written with an initial capital letter. Unlike English, days of the week and months of the year are written with small letters [lunes (Monday), abril (April)]. These words are capitalized only when they are part of historical dates, festivities or proper nouns [Primero de Mayo (1st of May), Primavera de Praga (Prague Spring), Viernes Santo (Good Friday), Hospital Doce de Octubre (Doce de Octubre Hospital)].

 

Common nouns

Common nouns have a meaning of their own and are used to name any of the people, animals or things of the same class  [estudiante (student), caballo (horse), pensamiento (thought)]. Common nouns are classified into the following types: concrete and abstract nouns, collective nouns, countable and uncountable nouns, action nouns. Let’s find out about them.

 

Concrete and abstract nouns

Concrete nouns designate beings or objects that have a real, physical or material existence [médico (doctor), ballena (whale), vaso (glass, as in glass of water)]. Abstract nouns don’t designate a material reality [actitud (attitude), belleza (beauty), movimiento (movement)]. Let’s look at some examples:

Concrete nouns:

  • El edificio (the building)
  • La sala de clases (the classroom)
  • Los animales (the animals)
  • El computador (the computer)
  • Las personas (the people)

Abstract nouns:

  • La verdad (the truth)
  • El entusiasmo (enthusiasm)
  • La felicidad (happiness)
  • El compañerismo (fellowship)
  • La tristeza (sadness)

 

Collective nouns

Collective nouns are singular words that designate a homogeneous group of people, animals or things [multitud (crowd), rebaño (flock), cubetería (silverware)]. More examples:

  • El abecedario (the alphabet)
  • El alumnado (the student body)
  • El equipo (the team)
  • La constelación (the constellation)
  • La gente (the people)

 

Countable and uncountable nouns

Countable nouns designate entities that can be counted, such as “bebé (baby), “pájaro” (bird), “día” (day). Uncountable nouns refer to substances, matters and other notions that can not be counted, like “aire” (air), “nieve” (snow), “sinceridad” (sincerity).  

Examples of countable nouns:

  • una manzana (an apple)
  • dos personas (two people)
  • tres computadores (three computers)
  • diez teléfonos (ten phones)
  • veinte vehículos (twenty vehicles)

Examples of uncountable nouns:

  • El aceite (the oil)
  • El agua (water)
  • El aire (air)
  • El alcohol (alcohol)
  • La lluvia (rain)

  

Action nouns

Action nouns designate actions. They normally refer to nouns that are derived from verbs, such as “destrucción” (destruction, from “destruir”), “calentamiento” (warming, from “calentar”), “apertura” (opening, from “abrir”). More examples of action nouns: 

  • Aceptación (acceptance, from “aceptar”)
  • Baile (dance, from “bailar”)
  • Cambio (change, from “cambiar”)
  • Demolición (demolition, from “demoler”)
  • Encuentro (encounter, from “encontrar”)

 

Gender of Spanish nouns and definite articles

In Spanish, definite articles (el, la, los, las) are equivalent to the English article “the”. In Spanish, the definite article agrees with the noun in gender and number. Examples:

  • El niño (the boy, masculine, singular)
  • Los niños (the boys, masculine, plural)
  • La niña (the girl, feminine, singular)
  • Las niñas (the girls, feminine, plural)

 

Masculine singular nouns

Most masculine singular nouns take the definite article “el” and end with an “o”. Examples:

  • el abogado (the lawyer)
  • el caballo (the horse)
  • el enojo (anger)
  • el gato (the cat)
  • el maestro (the teacher)

However, some masculine singular nouns do not end with the letter “o”. Therefore, it is necessary to learn each noun with its matching article. Examples:

  • el agua (the water, plural: las aguas)
  • el tomate (the tomato)
  • el aceite (the oil) 
  • el problema (the problem)
  • el programa (the program)

 

Feminine singular nouns

Most feminine singular nouns take the definite article “la” and end with an “a”. Examples:

  • la casa (the lawyer)
  • la silla (the chair)
  • la blusa (the blouse)
  • la gata (the cat)
  • la maestra (the teacher)

However, some feminine singular nouns do not end with the letter “a”. Examples:

  • nouns ending in -ción: la canción (the song), la comunicación (communication), la nación (the nation)
  • nouns ending in -sión: la televisión (TV), la pasión (passion), la sesión (the session)
  • nouns ending in -dad: la seriedad (seriousness), la caridad (charity), la hermandad (the brotherhood) 
  • nouns ending in -tad: la amistad (friendship), la lealtad (loyalty), la potestad (the power)
  • nouns ending in -tud: la virtud (virtue), la actitud (attitude), la plenitud (fullness)  

 

Many feminine singular nouns do not follow these patterns. Therefore, it is important that you study each noun with its matching article. Examples:

  • la mano (the hand)
  • la clase (the class)
  • la flor (the flower)
  • la luz (the light)
  • la piel (the skin)

 

Special cases

Nouns ending in -ista and -nte can be either masculine or feminine, depending on the article that precedes them. Examples:

  • el dentista, la dentista (the dentist)
  • el guionista, la guionista (the playwright)
  • el violinista, la violinista (the violinist)
  • el cantante, la cantante (the singer)
  • el estudiante, la estudiante (the student)

 

Masculine plural nouns

Masculine plural nouns take the article “los”. When the singular form ends in a vowel, the plural form ads a final “s”. Examples:

  • el niño – los niños (the boy, the boys)
  • el auto – los autos (the car, the cars)
  • el avión – los aviones (the plane, the planes)

When the singular form ends with a consonant, the plural forms ads “es” at the end. Examples:

  • el tren – los trenes (the train, the trains)
  • el hotel – los hoteles (the hotel, the hotels)
  • el doctor – los doctores (the doctor, the doctors)

 

Feminine plural nouns

Feminine plural nouns take the article “las”. When the singular form ends in a vowel, the plural form ads a final “s”. Examples:

  • la niña – las niñas (the girl, the girls)
  • la persona – las personas (the person, the persons/people)
  • la calle – las calles (the street, the streets)

When the singular form ends with a consonant, the plural forms ads “es” at the end. Examples:

  • la ciudad – las ciudades (the city, the cities)
  • la pared – las paredes (the wall, the walls)
  • la virtud – las virtudes (virtue, virtues)

 

Gender of Spanish nouns and indefinite articles

Indefinite articles in Spanish (un, una, unos, unas) are equivalent to English “a/an” (singular) and “some” (plural). Examples:

  • un niño, unos niños (a boy, some boys)
  • una niña, unas niñas (a girl, some girls)
  • un estudiante, unos estudiantes (a student, some students)
  • una estudiante, unas estudiantes (a student, some students)
  • un baño, unos baños (a toilet, some toilets)

 

50 most frequent Spanish nouns

According to the Current Spanish Reference Corpus, published by the Spanish Royal Academy, these are the top 50 most frequent nouns:

  1. años (years)
  2. vez (time, as in “three times”)
  3. parte (part)
  4. tiempo (time, as in time as a concept)
  5. vida (life)
  6. gobierno (government)
  7. día (day)
  8. país (country)
  9. mundo (world)
  10. año (year)
  11. forma (form)
  12. caso (case)
  13. presidente (president)
  14. casa (house)
  15. momento (moment)
  16. millones (millions)
  17. hombre (man)
  18. trabajo (work, job)
  19. días (days)
  20. política (politics)
  21. poder (power)
  22. veces (times, as in “three times”)
  23. partido (party or match, depending on the context)
  24. personas (persons, people)
  25. grupo (group)
  26. mujer (woman)
  27. José (José, male name)
  28. cosas (things)
  29. ciudad (city)
  30. manera (manner, way)
  31. sistema (system)
  32. historia (history)
  33. Juan (Juan, male name)
  34. tipo (type)
  35. punto (point)
  36. noche (night)
  37. agua (water)
  38. situación (situation)
  39. ejemplo (example)
  40. acuerdo (agreement)
  41. estados (states)
  42. países (countries)
  43. horas (hours)
  44. ley (law) 
  45. guerra (war)
  46. desarrollo (development)
  47. proceso (process)
  48. realidad (reality)
  49. sentido (sense)
  50. lado (side)

 

Let’s practice!

Instructions: choose the correct alternative. The answer key is right below the questions.

  1. __ niñ_ está jugando a la pelota. (The boy is playing with the ball.)
  2. El – o 
  3. La – a
  4. Los – os
  5. __ verdad es que me gustas. (The truth is I like you.)
  6. El  
  7. La 
  8. Las 
  9. __ turistas fueron asaltados. (Some tourists were robbed.)
  10. Un 
  11. Unas
  12. Unos
  13. Los mejores _____ nunca te abandonan. (The best friends never abandon you.)
  14. amigos 
  15. amigas
  16. amigo
  17. Hoy es _______. (Today is Monday.)
  18. Lunes
  19. lunes

 

Answer key

1a 2b 3c 4a 5b

 

Conclusion

The Spanish word “sustantivo” (noun) means “name”. Nouns are words that used to name people, animals or things. There are two big groups of nouns: proper and common. Proper names refer to specific people, animals or things. They do not have meaning on their own and star with a capital letter. Examples: Juan, Argentina, Estados Unidos, González, Pérez. Common nouns refer to any person, animal or thing in a category. Examples: estudiante, perro, ciudad, idea, personas. Common nouns can be concrete, abstract, collective, countable, uncountable, and action. 

Definite and indefinite articles are important, since they are indicative of a noun’s gender and number. Therefore, each noun must be studied with its matching article.

 

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