Masculine & Feminine in Spanish

Instructor: Janet Long

Janet has taught college Spanish and English courses and has master's degrees in Spanish literature and TESOL.

You know that people and animals are masculine or feminine, but did you know that nouns in Spanish have gender? In this lesson, we'll look at the differences between masculine and feminine nouns and learn some tips to remember them.

Gender in Spanish

We know that all people have gender, but in Spanish all nouns have gender. This means that every word for a person, place, thing or idea is either masculine or feminine. This can be confusing, especially when some words, like persona (person), can refer to a person that is man or a woman.

Why is it important to know if a noun is feminine or masculine? Because the gender of the noun changes the article or adjective that you can use with the noun. Masculine nouns are used with articles like el or un and have adjectives that end in -o, while female nouns use the articles la or una and have adjectives that end in -a.

To know if a noun is masculine or feminine, you should look to see what letter(s) the word ends with.

All nouns in Spanish have a gender, and are either feminine or masculine.
Female and Male Figures

Masculine Nouns

Here are some of the letters that we usually see at the end of masculine words.

• Most words that end in the letter -o are masculine. Some examples are hijo (son), zapato (shoe) and mono (monkey).

• Nouns that end in -ma are masculine, such as the word problema (problem)

• Nouns that end in -pa, like the word mapa (map), are also masculine

LONERS - words that end with any of the letters in LONERS are usually masculine. Some examples include:

Example Meaning
L papel paper
O mono monkey
N at'un tuna
E hombre man
R doctor doctor (male)
S autobus bus

Exceptions to the Masculine Noun Endings

These rules can help you most of the time to determine if the noun is masculine, but they won't always work. There are some words that end with -o, -ma, -pa, -ta, or LONERS that are feminine. A few of the most common ones are:

• Any words that are actually a shorter form of a longer word. For example, we usually say la moto for motorcycle, which ends in an -o. This is a feminine word because it is a short form of the longer word, la motocicleta. Another example of this is la radio, which is a shorter form of the word radiodifusión.

• Sometimes the word just breaks the rules, and we have to memorize that they are different, such as la mano (hand). Here it might help to connect it with a feminine word that is opposite, so you can remember the words in pairs. La mano (hand) is feminine, but el pie (foot) is masculine. Thinking of them together might help you remember their correct gender.

Feminine Nouns

Feminine nouns have different letters at the end of them than masculine ones. Here are the common endings for feminine words:

• The ending -a is usually feminine, just like -o is masculine. Two examples are doctora (female doctor) and camisa (shirt).

• Words that end in -ión are feminine nouns, such as religión (religion)

• Two other endings for feminine nouns are -dad / -tad, like in felicidad (happiness) and amistad (friendship).

-Tud, like in the word actitud (attitude) is also a common ending for feminine nouns

Exceptions to the Feminine Noun Endings

Although words that end in -a are usually feminine, we already know that the words with -ma at the end of them are masculine. There is one other ending that ends in -a, -ista, that is actually both feminine and masculine. It is usually at the end of words that describe people, like artista (artist) and realista (realist).

One other common word that ends in -a but that is masculine is the word el día (day). The opposite time of day, la noche (night), is feminine, so you can think of them as a pair.

Nouns that end in -a in Spanish are usually feminine, but the word for day is an exception.
Sunny Day

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