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How do you know the gender of Spanish nouns?

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It is important to identify the gender of Spanish nouns because the adjectives (for a refresher on this term, see “Unpacking the grammar” at the end) and other words accompanying them agree accordingly. Take, for example, the feminine noun casa [house]. If we want to add an adjective to describe it, we need to make it feminine as well, like this: casa bonita [beautiful house]. The two basic clues to recognize a noun’s gender are its ending or the article before it. Keep reading to learn more!

It is important to identify the gender of Spanish nouns because the adjectives (for a refresher on this term, see “Unpacking the grammar” at the end) and other words accompanying them agree accordingly. Take, for example, the feminine noun casa [house]. If we want to add an adjective to describe it, we need to make it feminine as well, like this: casa bonita [beautiful house]. The two basic clues to recognize a noun’s gender are its ending or the article before it. Keep reading to learn more!

How to recognize gender in Spanish nouns

Gender of nouns referring to animate objects (physical gender)

To identify the gender of a noun in Spanish, take a look at its ending. The general rule says that nouns ending in -a are feminine and those ending in -o are masculine. Look at the examples below:

Screen Shot 2021-08-02 at 12.23.35 PM

Sometimes the masculine noun referring to an animate object ends in a consonant, for example pintor [painter]. In that case, make the noun feminine simply by adding an -a:

    • pintorpintora                 painter

    • japonésjaponesa         Japanese

    • campeón campeona    champion

Let’s take a look at other cases of the gender of nouns that refer to animate objects.

  • Nouns that remain the same and only change the article

Some nouns in Spanish are the same regardless of gender. This means they have a unique form for both feminine and masculine while only the article changes. Look at the following examples:

    • el / la artista              the artist

    • el / la piloto               the pilot

    • el / la paciente          the patient

    • el / la estudiante       the student

    • el / la intérprete         the interpreter

  • Nouns ending in -e

There are a few nouns referring to animate objects that end in -e in their masculine form. For these cases, the feminine is made by dropping the -e and adding an -a

    • el jefe / la jefa            the boss

    • el sastre / la sastra    the tailor

  • Nouns that change slightly for feminine and masculine forms

For some nouns, masculine and feminine forms are somewhat different:

    • el reyla reina          the king – the queen

    • el actorla actriz      the actor – the actress

    • el alcaldela alcaldesa     the mayor

Gender of nouns referring to inanimate objects

All other cases of nouns, those referring to inanimate objects, such as objects, places, ideas, etc., are different, but here are some rules and endings that will help you identify their gender with ease.

  • Masculine nouns

Nouns ending in the consonants -n, -r, -s, -l, -x and -y are usually masculine* (scroll down to see exceptions in the ‘Misleading nouns’ section).

Screen Shot 2021-08-02 at 12.42.53 PM

There are also some categories of nouns that are always masculine. These are: the days of the week, colors, numbers, languages, the names of rivers, oceans, mountains, volcanoes, and compound nouns formed with a verb. You’ll find some examples in the following table:

Screen Shot 2021-08-02 at 12.44.13 PM

Finally, there are some other noun endings that are typically an indication of masculine gender. These are: -aje, -ambre, -ate, -ete, -ote, and -miento. Take a look at the following examples:

Screen Shot 2021-08-02 at 12.45.12 PM

  • Feminine nouns

Nouns ending in -dad, -tad, -tud, -ión, -ez, -eza, -umbre, -is, -ia, -ie and -ncia are usually feminine* (scroll down to see exceptions in the ‘Misleading nouns’ section).

Screen Shot 2021-08-02 at 12.47.47 PM

  • Nouns ending in -e

Nouns ending in -e can be masculine or feminine. There is no trick to remembering these, so to know their gender, always take a look at the article before it. In its singular form, a feminine noun will be accompanied by the articles la [the] or una [a, an] and the masculine noun will go with the articles el [the] or un [a, an].

Screen Shot 2021-08-02 at 12.50.33 PM

If you want to practice, we have created an exercise for you and a list with the most common Spanish nouns ending in -e.

Misleading nouns

There are some exceptions to the above. That is, nouns that refer to inanimate objects that may have the ending of a specific gender but be the opposite gender. Look at some examples in the following table:

Screen Shot 2021-08-02 at 12.53.54 PM

Do you want to know more? We have created an exercise that you can use to learn more misleading Spanish nouns.

Nouns that change meaning based on their gender

Spanish has some nouns that can be used with feminine and masculine articles but that change their meanings based on the article choice:

Screen Shot 2021-08-02 at 12.56.46 PM

Check out our list of nouns that change their meaning based on their gender.

Nouns referring to animals

Nouns referring to animals can be tricky in Spanish. They may only be in the masculine or the feminine gender or may even have different words depending on the gender. You can read more information in this post and keep this list as a quick reference about the different cases and words for animals based on their gender.

Summary

It’s important to identify the gender of nouns in Spanish so that they can agree with the adjectives and other words used to accompany them. To do so, there are some rules we need to remember. Let’s see what we’ve learned: 

  • Nouns that refer to animate objects will generally have two forms, masculine and feminine, which will be easily identifiable by their endings (-o or -a). 

  • Nouns ending in consonants like -n, -r, -s, -l, -x or -y are typically masculine.

  • Nouns ending in -d, -ión, -ez or -is are typically feminine. 

  • Nouns that end in -e and misleading nouns are hard to tell, so always look at the article in front of the word. 

If you want to practice these two last cases, we have created this exercise for you. Finally, if you want an easy way to remember some of these endings, this acronym might be helpful.

Unpacking the grammar

  • Adjectives are words that are used to describe something, including people, animals, things, places, or ideas. Adjectives are used to make many types of descriptions, such as stating the color, amount, category, appearance, or possession of something or someone.

El niño pequeño             The small child

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