Rules for the Formation of Spanish Plural Nouns

Rules and Examples for Pluralizing Nouns in Spanish

This lesson is about how to make a Spanish noun plural.

Remember what a noun is? It is a word used to name a person, place, thing, feeling, abstraction and so forth. To make a noun plural in English, such as bed, we simply add an s to the end of the word. Some nouns in English are both singular and plural, such as sheep, fish and shrimp. Other nouns in English have one form for the singular and another for the plural, such as goose for the singular and geese for the plural. We’ll examine some of the peculiarities of Spanish nouns too, but first, we’ll examine the big picture.

In Spanish, most nouns end in an unstressed vowel, usually an o or an a, which are, respectively, mostly masculine and feminine (agreement rules are covered in a separate lesson). In order to make these nouns plural, an s is added to the end of the word, just as in English. Thus, caballo becomes caballos and rosa becomes rosas. If a noun ends in an unstressed e, it also is made plural by adding s, such as elefante which becomes elefantes.

If a Spanish noun ends in a consonant, es must be added the end of the word. This is not like English (e.g., bird and birds). Thus, in Spanish, reloj becomes relojes and flor becomes flores. If a noun ends in a z, the z is changed to a c before adding es: lápiz becomes lápices.

If a Spanish noun ends in a stressed a or a stressed i or if it ends in a diphthong whose last letter is y, then es is added to form its plural. Examples include rubí whose plural is rubíes and rey which forms its plural as reyes.

In harmony with this last rule, the names of the letters of the alphabet, when speaking of them as the a’s, b’s and c’s and so forth, also form their plural by adding es and retaining the stress on the first syllable: áes, ees (or es) íes, óes, úes, etc.

Nouns of more than one syllable which end in is or es have the same form for singular and plural, such as el lunes, los lunes. These words show their plural by the preceding article. This rule also applies to surnames ending in a z, such as los López (meaning the López family or Mr. and Mrs. López).

Finally, with only a handful of exceptions, when s or es is added to a noun, it does not change where the stress falls in speaking. However, the addition of s or es may require a written accent on the syllable that bears the stress in the singular, such as joven, for the singular but jóvenes in the plural. Two common nouns that are exceptions to this rule are carácter whose plural is caractéres and the noun régimen with its plural regímenes.