One of the trickiest concepts for native English speakers to learn in Spanish is how to identify the gender of Spanish words. This is because, in English, nouns are gender neutral and so English speakers have never had to consider, for example, whether a table is masculine or feminine. This article will discuss rules and tricks to help you decipher if a noun is masculine or feminine.
Gender of Spanish Words
In Spanish, there are a total of four masculine and feminine articles, two singular and two plural. Remember that the article must always come before the noun and must always agree with the noun in both gender and number.
El vaso. → The glass. (singular)
Los vasos. → The glasses. (plural)
La mesa. → The table. (singular)
Las mesas. → The tables. (plural)
When adjectives are added into a sentence, they also must agree with the noun in gender and number. Remember that the adjective normally comes after the noun. For example:
La mesa roja. → The red table
Las mesas rojas. → The red tables.
Nouns that change based on gender
Many nouns, like vaso and mesa never change gender. However, other nouns, like animals and people’s occupations, change based on gender. For example:
Mi abuelo tiene una gata. → My Grandpa has one (female) cat.
Mi tía es una doctora. → My aunt is a (female) doctor.
Mi amiga ama a su perro. → My friend loves her (male) dog.
Mi primo es un doctor. → My (male) cousin is a doctor.
Nouns where the article changes based on gender
For professions that end in -ista, rather than adding -o or -a to the end of the noun to change the gender, you must change the article to show the gender of the person. For example:
el dentista OR la dentista → the dentist
el pianista OR la pianista → the pianist
el artista OR la artista → the artist
Here is a useful list of rules to help you remember which nouns are masculine.
Nouns that end in -o:
- el cielo → sky
- el carro → car
- el plato → plate
Nouns that end in -n, -l, -r, -ón, and -ma:
- el tren → train
- el pastel → dessert
- el motor → motor
- el cartón → carton
- el viaje → trip
- el problema → problem
Days of the week:
- el lunes → Monday
- el jueves → Thursday
- el sábado → Saturday
- El 4 de julio. → The 4th of July.
- El número cinco. → The number five.
- El 31 de octubre. → The 31st of October.
- el norte → north
- el sur → south
- el oeste → west
- el este → east
Names of rivers, lakes, oceans and mountains:
- El Atlantico → The Atlantic (Ocean)
- Los Pirineos → The Pyrenees (Mountains)
- El Rio Grande → The Rio Grande (river)
Here is a useful list of rules to help you remember which nouns are feminine.
Nouns that end in -a:
- la ventana → window
- la planta → plant
- la camisa → shirt
Nouns that end in -d, -z and -ión:
- la libertad → liberty
- la paz → peace
- la información → information
Letters of the alphabet:
- la (letra) “a” → The letter “a.”
- la (letra) “b” → The letter “b.”
- la (letra) “c” → The letter “c.”
Names of islands:
- Ibiza es bonita. → Ibiza is beautiful.
- Bali es famosa. → Bali is famous.
- Kauai es divertida. → Kauai is exciting.
Names of cities and countries that end in -a:
- Barcelona es maravillosa. → Barcelona is wonderful.
- Guatemala es encantadora. → Guatemala is charming.
- Suiza es hermosa. → Switzerland is beautiful.
Avoid an Identity Crisis
These tools will help you to accurately identify the gender of nouns in Spanish, and ensure they are paired with the appropriate articles and adjectives. You can familiarize yourself more with Spanish genders by listening carefully for them on TV shows, or making a note of them, especially the gender agreements that surprise you, when reading.
Now you might like to go over the simple rules that govern making Spanish nouns plural.