SPANISH PLURAL: DON’T Learn these 4 Rules By Heart (Do This Instead)
Today’s article is all about the PLURAL in Spanish! Basically, there are 4 rules to create the plural version of a word… which I, Cory, your favorite Spring Spanish teacher, will give you today.
Pero (But)… if you want to always get the plural right in a conversation, while speaking, ¡NO quiero que las aprendas de memoria! (I DON’T want you to learn them by heart!)
We’re going to take a different approach that’ll help you bypass these rules, so you don’t even have to think about them while speaking Spanish... you just need to pay attention to the word endings… like I’ll show you now!
1) Add an S at the end of the word
Here’s the complicated rule: If a singular noun ends en una vocal sin acento (in an unstressed vowel), that is, A, E, I, O, U or in stressed vowels (á, é or ó), then the rule is agrega una S (add an S) at the end of the word to make it plural.
That sounds like a textbook, ¿verdad (right)?, pero es fácil (but it’s easy)… Let’s see some examples:
- Las casas de allá son bonitas (The houses over there are pretty)
- México tiene muchos habitantes (México has many inhabitants)
- Los dulces me gustan mucho (I like candies a lot)
And that’s the trick: you won’t be able to remember the rules anyway when you’re under the pressure of an actual conversation… So, you’re better off listening to (or reading) TONS of examples where Spanish native speakers are using the plural correctly!
That way, your brain and ears will get used to seeing and hearing them properly. If you then memorize such examples in chunks, your brain will start doing it correctly automatically!
So, for the rest of this article, pay attention to the actual examples and memorize them!
If you’d like some help with that, we’ve created flashcard decks containing the chunks from this article and all our other articles and videos for all members of the Spring Spanish Inner Circle.
2) Add an S or ES at the end of the word
If a singular noun ends in í or ú, quiere decir, con acento (that is, with an accent mark), you can add -S or -ES to pluralize the word…
Puedes o no usar la terminación -íes y -úes (You may or may not use the ending -íes and -úes), but it sounds fancier…
Pay attention to the examples:
- Los israelíes son de Israel (Israelis are from Israel)
- Los jabalíes son considerados una plaga porque destruyen las granjas (Wild boars are considered a pest because they destroy farms)
- Los bambúes también son llamados bambús (Bamboos are also called “Bambús”)
3) Nouns ending in consonants
Done with the vowels… ¡siguiente! (next!) Let's learn about words that end en una consonante (in a consonant). If a singular noun ends in a vowel, plus Y or the consonants L, R, N, D, Z, J, S, X, or CH, add -es.
- Los reyes de España visitarán México (The King and Queen of Spain will visit Mexico)
- Yo tengo un video acerca de los meses en español (I have a video about the months in Spanish)
- Las luces de la casa están fundidas (The lights in the house are blown)
The other day I learned through experience that it’s a good idea to learn the term “foco fundido” (G)… La luz de mi comedor se fundió (The light bulb in my dining room broke) and I hurt my pinky toe because there was no light…
It was super painful, and when I tried to tell this sad story to English speakers, I realized that there’s no specific word for “fundir” — although some people use “blown” for that… So, next time something sad happens to you, you know what to blame… ¡al foco fundido! (the blown light bulb!)
Nota importante (Important note): If a singular noun ends in Z, you must change the Z to C before adding -es:
- actriz – actrices (actress – actresses)
- eficaz – eficaces (effective – effective)
- juez – jueces (judge – judges)
4) Nouns ending in a group of consonants
If a singular noun ends in a consonant cluster (that is, more than one consonant at the end of the word) o una vocal (or a vowel) plus a consonant other than the ones mentioned above, ¿adivina qué? (guess what?)… ¡Sólo agrega una S! (Only add an S!)
- Los icebergs son mucho más grandes dentro del agua (Icebergs are much larger in the water)
- Los mamuts están extintos (Mammoths are extinct)
- Uno de los cracks del fútbol argentino es Maradona (One of the best Argentinian soccer players is Maradona)
Time for a Quiz!
Alright, now it’s time to test your skills… a quiz for you to fill in the plurals!
- México tiene muchos ____________. (Mexico has a lot of inhabitants.)
- Los ___________ son de Israel. (Israelis are from Israel.)
- Yo tengo un video acerca de los ___________ en español. (I have a video about the months in Spanish.)
- Las ___________ de la casa están fundidas. (The lights in the house are blown.)
- Los ______ están extintos. (Mammoths are extinct.)
How many did you get right? Tell me in the comments!
By the way, now we’re in “quiz mode”, I have 10 more questions for you to test your Spanish. Let’s see how many of these questions in Spanish you're able to get right!