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Gender of Spanish Nouns

First of all, what is a noun? A noun is a word used to denominate a person, thing, place or concept. For example:

Person: María (Mary), niño (boy)
Place: España (Spain), fábrica (factory)
Thing: leche (milk), pan (bread)
Concept: amor (love), justicia (justice)

In Spanish, all nouns are either masculine or feminine. And it sounds quite logical if nouns refer to living creatures:

Masculine: El hombre (The man)
Feminine: La mujer (The woman)

Masculine: Un caballo (A horse)
Feminine: Una yegua (A mare)

But what about nouns that stand for non-living things? The truth is that we cannot predict / guess the genre of this type of nouns. So we’ll have to put in practice some general rules and concepts:


  1. Nouns ending in –o are usually masculine, and nouns ending in –a are usually feminine.

    Masculine:

    El barco (The ship)
    El libro (The book)
    El tejado (The roof)

    Feminine:

    La casa (The house)
    La cocina (The kitchen)
    La manzana (The apple)

    Note that I said “usually”, as there are some exceptions:


    • There are some nouns that end in –a, but they are not feminine, but masculine:

      El día (the day)
      El idioma (the language)
      El problema (the problem)
      El sofá (the sofa)
      El planeta (the planet)

    • And vice versa, some nouns that end in -o are feminine:

      la mano
      la radio



  2. When a masculine noun ends in a consonant, its feminine form ends in –a (We just have to had an “a” after that last consonant).

    Masculine: el actor (the actor)
    Feminine: la actriz (the actress)

    Masculine: el doctor (the doctor)
    Feminine: la doctora (the female doctor)


  3. All the Spanish nouns ending in –ción, -sión, -tad, -tud, -dad or –umbre are feminine:

    La canción (song)
    La ilusión (illusion)
    La libertad (liberty)
    La actitud (attitude)
    La habilidad (ability)
    La incertidumbre (uncertainty)


  4. There are some Spanish nouns that have the same form for both masculine and feminine.

    El emigrante (the emigrant)
    La emigrante (the ‘female’ emigrant)

    El cantante (the singer)
    La cantante (the ‘female’ singer)


  • When we have 2 or more nouns with different genre (one is masculine and the other one is feminine), and there is 1 adjective used to describe both of them, the genre of this adjective will be masculine.

  • - El árbol y la flor son bonitos. (The tree and the flower are nice)

    Here, we have the noun “árbol” (masculine) and the noun “flor” (feminine). Both have different genre, so the adjective that describes them (bonito) is masculine.

    Finally some tips when you learn Spanish nouns: Try to learn not only the word, but also its article (el / la). Also, go to the dictionary and you’ll find, after the noun either f or m (feminine or masculine).


    Recommended material:
    You can find below some materials / web pages that, from my point of view, can be useful and interesting:

    Think Spanish Magazine I write monthly articles for 'Think Spanish' ('Piensa en español') about Spain, its culture, travel issues... But this magazine also covers all Latin American countries. Articles include a glossary. You can also listen to all the articles as they also publish a monthly CD.

    Puerta del Sol - Audio Magazine A very interesting way of learning or reviewing not just Spanish grammar and vocabulary, but also a great way to find out about Spain and its culture.

    Lo más TV Such a funny, intelligent and useful way to learn and enjoy the Spanish language!! It is a web based activity and offers new videos, on a weekly basis, with Spanish / English captions, dictionary and games.

    Angeles' Blog: "Spanish Word of the Day" I'm adding a new Spanish word, everyday, including its sound file, translation, uses and descriptions. You can send your messages with questions, examples to be reviewed, etc.

    Visual Link Spanish Visual Link Spanish™ - Just click, listen and repeat! Don't just learn Spanish; put it into practice with a unique guided, step-by-step system. I've tested it and I wish I'd had something similar when I studied English!!

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    This content was written by Angeles Fernández. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Angeles Fernández for details.



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