How To Make Spanish Nouns and Adjectives Plural

Pluralization rules for Spanish have few exceptions

six smiling women
Seis mujeres sonrientes. (Six smiling women.).

 Filadendron/Getty Images

If you know how to make nouns plural in English, you're close to knowing how to do so in Spanish. And once you know how to make Spanish nouns plural, you can simply follow the same rules for adjectives.

Key Takeaways: Spanish Plurals

  • The rules for making nouns plural in Spanish are similar to those of English, but Spanish has fewer exceptions.
  • Nearly all nouns are made plural by adding s or es. The same rules are followed for adjectives.
  • Sometimes it is necessary to add or delete an accent on the final vowel of a singular word when making it plural.

The basic principle is the same: In Spanish, plurals end with the letter s, as is usually the case in English. Spanish plurals usually have an unaccented vowel preceding the s, as is often the case in English.

The Basic Rule

In fact, if you can remember that the Spanish plural is formed by making sure the plural word ends with s preceded by an unaccented vowel, usually e, you've taken care of nearly all of what you'll have to learn. Most of what's left is learning the few exceptions as well as the spelling changes needed to make the written form of the language conform to what is spoken.

The basic rule is this: If a word ends in anything other than an s preceded by an unstressed vowel, add either s or es to the end of the word so that it does. In some cases, a spelling change is needed to maintain the sound that would be needed to follow this rule.

Here's how the rule is applied in various cases:

Words Ending in an Unstressed Vowel

When the word ends in a vowel without an accent, simply add the letter s.

  • el libro, the book; los libros, the books
  • el gemelo, the twin; los gemelos, the twins
  • el pato, the duck; los patos, the ducks

Nouns Ending in a Stressed Vowel

A few nouns have a single syllable ending in a vowel or have multiple syllables and end in an accented vowel. In standard or formal writing, simply add the letters es.

  • el tisú, the tissue, los tisúes, the tissues
  • el hindú, the Hindu, los hindúes, the Hindus
  • el yo, the id; los yoes, the ids

In everyday speech, however, it is common for such words to be made plural simply by adding s. Thus it would not be uncommon to hear someone talk about hindús.

Words Ending in a Consonant

As is common in English, nouns ending in a consonant are made plural by adding es.

  • el escultor; the sculptor; los escultores, the sculptors
  • la sociedad, the society; las sociedades, the societies
  • el azul, the blue one; los azules, the blue ones
  • el mes, the month; los meses, the months

Y is treated as a consonant for this rule: la ley, the law; las leyes, the laws.

Words Ending in S Preceded by an Unstressed Vowel

The plural form is the same as the singular form for nouns ending in an unstressed vowel followed by s.

  • el lunes, Monday; los lunes, Mondays
  • el rompecabezas, the puzzle; los rompecabezas, the puzzles
  • la crisis, the crisis; las crisis, the crises

The Exceptions

Exceptions to the above rules are few. Here are the most common ones:

Words Ending in É

Words ending in a stressed e or é simply need an s at the end:

  • el café, the coffeehouse; los cafés, the coffeehouses
  • la fe, the faith; las fes, the faiths

Foreign Words

Some foreign words maintain the pluralization rules of the originating language. It is also very common to simply add an s to make plural words foreign regardless of what the originating language does.

  • los jeans, the jeans
  • el camping, the campground; los campings, campgrounds
  • el curriculum vitae, the résumé; los curricula vitae, the résumés
  • el spam, a spam email or article; los spams, spam emails or articles

Specific Exceptions

A few words simply don't follow the rules.

  • el papá, the father; los papás, the fathers
  • la mamá, the mother, las mamás, the mothers
  • el sofá, the couch, los sofás, the couches

Orthographic Changes

Changes in either spelling or accents are needed sometimes due to the phonetic nature of the Spanish language. The rules above still apply — you just need to make sure a plural word is spelled the way it is pronounced, or that it is spelled according to Spanish convention. Here are the orthographic changes sometimes required:

Nouns Ending in Z

The z changes to c when followed by es:

  • el pez, the fish; los peces, the fishes;
  • el juez, the judge; los jueces, the judges

Nouns Ending in an Accented vowel followed by S or N

The written accent isn't needed in pluralizing a noun ending in a vowel followed by s or n.

  • el interés, the interest; los intereses, the interests
  • el francés, the Frenchman, los franceses, the Frenchmen
  • el avión, the airplane; los aviones, the airplanes

Nouns Ending in N in an Unstressed Syllable:

But an accent is needed when a noun ending in an unstressed vowel and n is made plural:

  • el examen, the exam; los exámenes, the exams
  • el crimen, the crime; los crímenes, the crimes