Let’s brush up on some Spanish. While most people traditionally associate the language with Spain or South America, one country that is increasingly becoming more Hispanic is The United States. The map above shows the reach of Spanish in the various states of America: the darker the blue, the more Latino it is. According to the latest estimates (for 2012) from the United States’ Census Bureau, 16.7 per cent of the estimated US population of 313,914,040 were Hispanic. That’s 52.4 million people. And one thing I noticed in America, the hamburguesas and patatas fritas (fries) seem más deliciosas y más exóticas when they are ordered in Spanish.
The nouns in Spanish don’t look too complicated. As usual with most Romance languages, they are either masculine or feminine.
Most of those ending in o are masculine.
- el libro (the book)
- el muchacho (boy)
- el hermano (brother)
Most of those ending in a are feminine
- la muchacha (the girl)
- la hermana (sister)
But once again all those words derived from Greek that end in a are masculine. Those Greeks like to be different!
- el día (the day)
- el programa (program)
Nouns ending in ista can be either depending on the circumstances (for instance, if your dentist is a man or woman): el dentista, la dentista. Likewise, your guide could be el guía or la guía, and your doctor could be el or la médico.
Nouns that end in dad, tad, tud, umbre, ción or sión are feminine. Some examples:
- la ciudad (city)
- la nación (nation)
- la actitud (attitude)
- la muchedumbre (crowd)
If you are observant, you will have noticed that the definite article in Spanish is either el or la. In the plural these change to los and las respectively.
However, there is one thing to watch out for. Feminine nouns that start with ha or a stressed a take the masculine article in the singular but the feminine in the plural:
- el arma, las armas (the arm/arms, in a military sense)
- el hacha, las hachas (the axe/axes)
The reason for this is the awkwardness of these sounds together – it is much easier to say el arma than la arma (just as it is easier to say “an apple” than “a apple” in English).
The indefinite article in Spanish is un in front of masculine words and una in front of feminine ones.
- un señor (a man)
- una señora (a lady)
But as with the definite article, the masculine form of the indefinite is used in front of feminine nouns beginning with ha or a stressed a, hence: un arma, un hacha
Like Portuguese, there are plural indefinite articles unos (masculine) and unas, meaning “some”.
Now I will put another picture in to make this post look more interesting and colourful… let’s look for an axe or un hacha:
OK, back to the non-picturesque and the less colourful…
The formation of plural nouns is not too complicated either.
If the noun ends in a vowel (usually a, e or o), add an s: hence el camino, los caminos (the paths).
If the noun ends in a consonant you add es: hence la cuidad, las ciudades (the cities)
Nouns that end in ción or sión are lose their accents in the plural: hence la nación becomes la naciones. This is because the stress falls away.
So, there we have it. Of course, there is a lot more to it than that, but that will suffice for now.
Going back to the map of the United States at the top, I have often wondered how different the world would have been today if the Spanish Armada had succeeded when it set sail in 1588 with the intention of invading England. For one thing, England would have been a Catholic country and maybe its cuisine would have been better. Englebert Humperdinck would have been more like Julio Iglesias, Prince Charles would have been Carlos, and Amy Winehouse would have been Amy Casavino. And think how different colonial history would have been too. Australians would not play cricket and would have siestas. Most important though, my favourite football team, Derby County (don’t ask) might have been Barcelona!
- Estas Cosas: Spanish demonstrative adjectives (homeeducationresources.com)
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- Taste of Spain. (dominikaensevilla.wordpress.com)
- Europeans.are.gorgeous.people. (redmondsusie.wordpress.com)
- !Adios, Salamanca! (katiebutler09.wordpress.com)
- Artículos & numeros (bespanishfluent.wordpress.com)
- Exploration’s Tide Flowing Backwards (texthistory.wordpress.com)
- Spanish Pirate Armada missing in Árainn Mhór (bullonthemike.wordpress.com)
- The Spanish Armada Speech (exceedinglyexpressional.wordpress.com)
- Spanish Navy (erinmcdermottblog.wordpress.com)