¡Buenos días! Today we'll talk about Spanish singular and plural nouns and we’ll look at how to make singular nouns plural.
In this easy lesson, the only background knowledge you need is that when we say a Spanish noun is ‘singular,’ it means there’s only one of them. When we refer to it as ‘plural,’ there’s more than one.
We’ve made a list of rules to help you form all sorts of plurals, but generally it’s pretty simple.
The first rule is that when you make a singular Spanish noun plural, you must remember to change the article that goes with it (the article is the tiny word in front), for example la chica becomes las chicas.
Here’s how to change the common articles, with examples:
|el chico (the boy)||los chicos (the boys)|
|la chica (the girl)||las chicas (the girls)|
|un chico (a boy)||unos chicos (some boys)|
|una chica (a girl)||unas chicas (some girls)|
When a Spanish noun ends in an unstressed vowel, it’s a simple case of adding an -s to the end of it.
|un lobo (one wolf)||dos lobos (two wolves)|
|una manzana (one apple)||dos manzanas (two apples)|
We’ve seen what to do with unstressed vowels, but what if the vowel at the end of the noun has an accent? Words ending in -é or -ó also take their plurals by adding -s, just like in Rule #2. Nice and simple.
|un café (a coffee)||dos cafés (two coffees)|
|el buró (the desk)||los burós (the desks)|
If a noun ends in -á or -í or -ú, we usually add -es.
|el panamá (Panama hat)||los panamáes (Panama hats)|
|el bisturí (the scalpel)||los bisturíes (the scalpels)|
|el tabú (the taboo)||los tabúes (the taboos)|
There are exceptions to this rule. Some of these nouns (a lot of the common ones, actually) form their plurals irregularly, such as mamá, or menú, for which we just stick an -s on the end.
|la mamá y el papá (the mommy and the daddy)||las mamás y los papás (the mommies and the daddies)|
|el menú (the menu)||los menús (the menus)|
The general rule for words ending in consonants is that we add -es.
|el color (the color)||los colores (the colors)|
|la ciudad (the city)||las ciudades (the cities)|
|un rey (one king)||cinco reyes (five kings)|
As long as there’s no stress on the final syllable, the noun remains unchanged in the plural.
|el jueves (Thursday)||los jueves (Thursdays)|
|la tesis (the thesis)||las tesis (the theses, e.g. ‘The students submitted their theses.’)|
|el cactus (cactus)||los cactus (cacti)|
This rule often applies to Spanish compound nouns. We’re talking about words where a verb and a noun are joined together to make a bigger word, e.g. paraguas = parar (to stop) + agua (water)!
|mi paraguas (my umbrella)||mis paraguas (my umbrellas)|
|su cumpleaños (his birthday)||sus cumpleaños (his birthdays)|
|el limpiaparabrisas (the windshield wiper)||los limpiaparabrisas (the windshield wipers)|
But if the final syllable is stressed ...
If the noun ends in -s and the emphasis is on the last syllable when spoken (which will also be the case for words that only have one syllable!), then add -es.
|el mes (month)||los meses (months)|
|el autobús* (bus)||los autobuses* (buses)|
*see rule #8 to find out why we removed the accent.
In Spanish, we have rules surrounding stress and emphasis within words. If our noun ends in a consonant, then we’re most likely going to be adding -es, which adds an extra syllable onto the end of the word.
This means that we don’t need the accent anymore. Don’t worry, you won’t mess up the stress—follow the rules and the syllables sort themselves out!
|un autobús (a bus)||unos autobuses (some buses)|
|el francés (Frenchman)||los franceses (Frenchmen)|
|un rehén (a hostage)||ocho rehenes (eight hostages)|
Sometimes making a noun plural means we actually have to add an accent, to maintain the stress when we add the new -es syllable. This usually applies to words ending in -en.
|el crimen (the crime)||los crímenes (the crimes)|
|una imagen (an image)||unas imágenes (some images)|
One of the cool things about languages is that they’re always borrowing and adapting words from each other! When a non-Spanish word (or an adapted version of it) is used in Spanish, we usually just add an -s to it!
|el chalet (chalet)||los chalets (chalets)|
|un hacker (one hacker)||dos hackers (two hackers)|
When we use a surname to talk about members of a family, we don’t add -s or -es. (Royalty is an exception.)
|Soy Ana Smithson. (I’m Ana Smithson.)||Somos los Smithson. (We’re the Smithsons.)|
|Estoy enamorado de una Jones. (I’m in love with a Jones.)||Estoy enamorado de una de los Jones. (I’m in love with one of the Joneses.)|
So you don’t need to worry about changing these, e.g. los celos (jealousy), and las tijeras (scissors). You can’t have just one scissor—you need a pair!
So you don’t need to worry about making these plural, e.g. el tenis (tennis). You can have more than one game of tennis, but you can’t have more than one tennis. These nouns are called mass nouns. They’re uncountable.
This last one is just a quick note on spelling. If the noun in the singular form ends in -z, we’ll need to change it to a -c before we add -es. Don’t worry, change can be a good thing.
|un pez (a fish)||unos peces (some fish)|
|la voz (the voice)||las voces (the voices)|
Try and figure out the plural form of each of the following nouns! The parts in parentheses give you the meaning of the singular noun in English, and then the plural that you want to get to. Don’t forget to change the article!
1. un libro (a book -> some books)
a. unos libros
2. el tentempié (the snack -> the snacks)
a. los tentempiés
3. una mamá (a mommy -> some mommies)
a. unas mamás
4. el corazón (the heart -> the hearts)
a. los corazones
5. el lápiz (the pencil -> the pencils)
a. los lápices
6. el germen (germ -> germs)
a. los gérmenes
7. una vez (one time -> a few/several times)
a. unas veces
8. un guardaespaldas (one bodyguard -> two bodyguards)
a. dos guardaespaldas
9. un Hernández (a member of the Hernández family -> some members of the Hernández family)
a. unos Hernández
10. la crisis (the crisis -> the crises)
a. las crisis
So there are your rules! Now you know how to turn Spanish singular nouns into plurals ... which is a very useful skill to have, otherwise you’d only ever be able to talk about one of anything (#notideal)! ¡Hasta la próxima!
Annabel is a language-enthusiast from the UK. She studied Spanish and French at the University of Southampton (with an Erasmus study year in Madrid!) and recently graduated. She has interests across the Spanish-speaking world, and is a fan of language in general.
Spanish Prefixes: A Quick Guide
An Easy Guide to Spanish Relative Pronouns
Spanish Prepositional Pronouns
Let’s Get to Know Spanish Subject Pronouns
Spanish Transitive vs Intransitive Verbs: An Easy Guide
A Quick Guide to Numbers in Spanish
A Quick Guide to Spanish Articles
Spanish Suffixes: Diminutive, Augmentative, Pejorative and More!