Types of Spanish Nouns and their Uses

Nouns in Spanish, LOS SUSTANTIVOS, play a very important role in everyday conversations. This lesson will cover the most important types of Spanish nouns there is and show you a list of the most common nouns belonging to each category. In addition, we will talk about their functions in Spanish, and will see the new vocabulary in use in real sentences. Comencemos…

Grammar introduction: What are nouns in Spanish?

Nouns are words that are used to refer to people, places, things or actions. They are called SUSTANTIVOS or NOMBRES. “Los sustantivos” fall into a certain category and have a gender (masculine or feminine) as well as number (plural or singular) associated with them, which we will study in independent lessons. Some examples of nouns in Spanish are names like “Carlos” and “Marcos”, or things like “Teléfono” and “Libro”. Here is a short video explaining the basics about the different types of Spanish nouns you should know about.

The different types of Spanish nouns – Los tipos de sustantivos

There are two main types of Spanish nouns: concrete and abstract nouns.

First, Spanish concrete nouns or “los sustantivos concretos” are the ones we can feel with our senses such as AGUA (water), PADRE (father), MADRE (mother) and so on. Concrete nouns can be further divided into two subtypes: Spanish common nouns (general objects like bicicleta or computadora) and Spanish proper nouns (individual or unique things such as names).

Second, Spanish abstract nouns or “los sustantivos abstractos” refer to objects that do not have a material existence such as ODIO(hatred), AMOR(love) and TRISTEZA (sadness). Later, we will continue learning about each category and will provide more examples too. For now, please check the picture below and a list of seven nouns in Spanish with their respective types.

The different types of Spanish nouns: concrete, abstract, common, proper and others
Los tipos de sustantivos en español

Spanish Concrete Nouns – Los sustantivos concretos

As we mentioned before, “los sustantivos concretos” or Spanish concrete nouns are the ones we can touch, see, smell, hear and so on. Here are some examples of sentences with concrete nouns:

Libro – Este libro es interesante
Book – This book is interesting
Guitarra – Yo puedo tocar guitarra
Guitar – I can play guitar
Casa – La casa es muy grande
House – The house is very big

Spanish Abstract Nouns – Los sustantivos abstractos

Los sustantivos abstractos or Spanish abstract nouns are those that do not have a material existence like emotions or feelings, that is things we cannot see or touch like ideas. Here are some sentences using common abstract nouns:

Amor – El amor es un sentimiento
Love – Love is a feeling
Felicidad – El bebé le trajo felicidad
Happiness- The baby brought her happiness
Éxito – El proyecto es un éxito
Success – The project is a success

Spanish Common Nouns – Los sustantivos comunes

Los sustantivos comunes or Spanish common nouns are the ones that refer to people or things in a general way for example: Los niños (children). For instance, if we say LOS NIÑOS, we are not specifying which child we are referring to, which could be any child (maybe Alan, Pedro, Maria…) within the group. Therefore common nouns in Spanish tell us that all of them belong to a group with shared features. Here are some sentences using common nouns:

Niños – Los niños son inteligentes
Children – Children are smart
Carro – Compré un carro (do not specify which kind of car)
Car – I bought a car

Spanish Proper Nouns – Los sustantivos propios

Los sustantivos propios or Spanish proper nouns are the ones we use to name things or people such as Ana, Carlos, México, Brasil, Toyota and so on . What makes them easy to differentiate from common nouns is the fact tht proper nouns will always begin with capital letter as you can see in the sentences in the list.

Estados Unidos – Estados Unidos es un país de Norteamérica
United States – United States is a country in North America
Mercedes – Mercedes es estudiante
Mercedes – Mercedes is a student
Cien años de soledad – Cien años de soledad es un libro famoso
One hundred years of solitude – One hundred years of solitude is a famous book

Other types of nouns in Spanish: list and definition

The four types of nouns in Spanish we have studied so far are the ones we encourage you to remember. However, there are still more specific types of nouns in the language that you might want to study as well, including simple and compound nouns. Here are the remaining types and a list of common Spanish nouns belonging to each category.

Types of Spanish nounsA list of common Spanish nouns
Los sustantivos individuales or individual nouns are used to designate unique objects that may be part of a category.Llave, Lavadora, Televisor, Béisbol, Fútbol
Los sustantivos colectivos or collective nouns are used for categories of similar objects.Deportes, Mamíferos, Peces
Los sustantivos contables or countable nouns are the ones we can count.Lapices, libros, casas, adultos
Los sustantivos no contables or uncountable nouns are those we cannot count.Agua, Odio, Amor, Belleza, Aire
Los sustantivos simples or simple nouns are just nouns made out of one word.Vestido, Zapato, Blusa, Carro
Los sustantivos compuestos or compound nouns are the ones we form joining two words.Electrodomésticos (electro + domésticos), Abrelatas (abre + lata) and Paramédico (Para + Médico)

The role of Spanish nouns in sentences

Spanish nouns have several uses and depending on their position in the sentence, they may have different roles. This feature is called LAS FUNCIONES DEL SUSTANTIVO in the language. That being said, nouns may role as:

  1. The subject of sentence, for example: Ana vive en Estados Unidos (Ana lives in the US) where ANA is a proper noun (un sustantivo propio).
  2. The direct object of a verb like in the sentence Carlos monta bicicleta. What’s the object that Carlos is riding? UNA BICICLETA. This is a common noun working as the direct object of the verb MONTAR (to ride).
  3. The indirect object of a verb like in the sentence Estoy ayudándole a mamá where MAMÁ is a concrete, common noun. To know that it is working as an indirect object we ask ourselves the question, Whom am I helping? (¿A quién estoy ayudandole? -> A mamá).
  4. The object of a preposition like in El libro habla del amor where AMOR is an abstract noun and DEL is a preposition. Libro is a noun too but in this sentence it works as the subject. ¿De qué habla el libro? -> Del amor

Can you find the Spanish nouns in these sentences?

Here is a quiz to test if you can recognize Spanish nouns. Each sentence has one or more "sustantivo". Find the words functioning that way in the sentences. You will get an interesting tip every time you find a right answer. Press "START" to begin the quiz.
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