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Grammatical Agreement in Spanish

Are you familiar with the concept of grammatical agreement in Spanish? There are two main types of agreement in Spanish: noun agreement and verb agreement. Today's lesson will provide an introduction to each. 


Noun Agreement in Spanish 

The concept of noun agreement is the following: Since Spanish nouns are either masculine or feminine and singular or plural, their definite or indefinite articles, adjectives, and other grammatical elements must correspond in terms of these attributes. Let's take a look at a chart that demonstrates this concept with masculine and feminine singular and plural nouns and their corresponding definite and indefinite articles. 


  Singular: Plural:  
Masculine: el chico (the boy) los chicos (the boys)  
  un chic(a boy) unos chicos (some boys)  
Feminine: la chic(the girl) las chicas (the girls)  
  una chica (a girl) unas chicas (some girls)  






The chart shows us the various ways to say "the" (el, los, la, las) and "a/an" (un, unos, una, unas), depending upon whether a noun is masculine or feminine and singular or plural. That said, let's keep a couple of additional points in mind regarding recognizing the number and gender of Spanish nouns and/or modifying them to achieve noun agreement.


1. Although many Spanish masculine singular nouns end in -o and many Spanish feminine nouns end in -a, this is not always the case. Therefore, less obvious nouns (e.g. el avión (the airplane) or la nube (the cloud)) require simply memorizing the gender of the noun, especially nouns that refer to inanimate objects. For this reason, Spanish students typically learn new nouns and their respective masculine or feminine definite articles simultaneously. 


2. As a general rule, many nouns that end in a vowel require the addition of an -s to make them plural, while many nouns that end in a consonant become plural by adding -es. Applying this to the abovementioned nouns, el avión becomes los aviones while la nube changes to las nubes.


Adjective Noun Agreement in Spanish


In addition to their articles, Spanish adjectives must also agree in terms of number and gender with the nouns they modify, with the same general spelling guidelines that we mentioned for pluralizing nouns. Let's hear how this works via some examples from our Yabla Spanish library:


Un coche bonito, unos coches bonitos. Una casa roja, las casas rojas.

A nice car, some nice cars. A red house, the red houses.

Captions 28-29, Fundamentos del Español 3 - Le Estructura de las Frases

 Play Caption


unos ojos azules, inmensos...

some huge, blue eyes...

Caption 24, Extr@: Extra en español Ep. 6: El día de la Primitiva - Part 2

 Play Caption


As you delve further into more complex Spanish grammar such as direct object pronouns, you will see how the number and gender of Spanish nouns continue to exert their influence. 


Verb Agreement in Spanish 

Verb agreement in Spanish refers to the fact that Spanish verbs need to be conjugated in accordance with their respective subjects or subject pronouns, agreeing in number (singular or plural) and person (first, second, or third). Although this concept exists in English, it is much simpler due to the fact that there are less subject pronouns in English (seven vs. thirteen in Spanish) and far less verb forms. For example, for all of the seven English subject pronouns, there are only two verb forms, as we see below:


Subject Pronoun:

I: speak

you: speak

he: speaks

she: speaks

we: speak

they: speak

it: speaks 


In Spanish, on the other hand, there are thirteen subject pronouns and many corresponding conjugations. Additionally, the manner in which each verb is conjugated depends upon which of the three common verb categories (-ar, -er, and -ir) it falls into, and many verbs are irregular, making verb agreement in Spanish significantly more complex. With this in mind, let's take a look at a chart with the conjugations of three common regular verbs, one from each category, in the present indicative tense:


Subject Pronoun: hablar: comer: subir:
yo hablo como subo
hablas comes subes
vos hablás comés subís
él/ella/usted habla come sube
vosotros/vosotras habláis coméis subís
nosotros/nosotras hablamos comemos subimos
ellos/ellas/ustedes hablan comen suben









If that doesn't seem nuanced enough, keep in mind that that was just one of the sixteen Spanish verb tenses, each of which has its own specific manner of conjugating verbs in order to ensure verb agreement. 


We hope that these explanations have given you a better idea about the concept of noun and verb agreement in Spanish, which are essential to understanding Spanish sentences and constructing your own. Don't forget to write us with your questions and comments


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