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Hi Free!...the short explanation is: In Spanish there is something called "Plural expresivo" or "Expressive plural" which refers not to the quantity but to the intensity of the expression, for example: Felicidades (congratulations), gracias (thank you), saludos (regards)... Buenos días (or tardes or noches). It means, when something good happens to somebody, you say ¡Felicidades! and not ¡Felicidad!...because you want to intensify the expression, and not really pluralize it. ¡Buenos días! is like saying: I really wish you have a very good day. I must say, however, that Buen día, buena tarde y buena noche (in singular) are also used in many parts, and they both are accepted, but the correct one is in plural ;-)
In English, "afternoon" comes before "evening," which in turn comes before "night." In Spanish there are only two words that cover these times of the day: "tarde" which means "afternoon," but overlaps with "evening," and "noche," which means "night" but also overlaps with "evening." Therefore, at 6:30pm it is ok to say either "buenas tardes" or "buenas noches."
From these basic greetings, only "good morning" has the masculine version of the word good (buenos). This is because, though the word for day, "día", ends in 'a', that usually points to feminine word, it is one of the exceptions and is actually masculine: "el día".
Afternoon/evening is "la tarde" and night is "la noche" and with feminine nouns a feminine version of the 'modifying adjective' is used. That's why they are "buenas tardes" and "buenas noches".
That's used to indicate that, from that point on and until you find the closing exclamation sign ! you must use a more vigorous intonation to remark the words. In spanish, as opposite to english, you must always use an opening and a closing sign for exclamation and questions: ¿...? for questions and ¡...! for exclamation
It's the gender of the word: you use "Buenas" with feminine nouns, and "Buenos" with masculine nouns. In this case "noche" is feminine (la noche), therefore you use "Buenas noches" (Note also that it is plural: nocheS; in singular you must say "Buena noche") "Día", on the other hand, is masculine so you say: "Buenos días" (The same note about plural and singular)
I'm very disappointed because I've gotten several of these questions where you have to say the phrase to your device. This is because my computer doesn't have a microphone or anything else to speak into. I can pronounce the phrase right, its just I have to skip the question which automatically marks the question wrong and puts me back in progress :(
You memorize the gender of the noun; it will be masculine or feminine.
Then everything has to agree with the noun in gender and number.
el nuevo coche blanco (singular masculine)
los nuevos coches blancos (plural masculine)
la nueva casa blanca (singular feminine)
las nuevas casas blancas (plural feminine)