May 11, 2020 ·

Nouns and Gender in Spanish

Why do nouns have gender in Spanish?

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male and female bulldog

Why do nouns have gender in Spanish?

 

We can trace noun genders back to Proto – Indo – European roots, but there is no real reason as to why genders are assigned to nouns in romance languages and other germanic languages. Culture and convention have assigned certain genders to certain words and we just have to accept them the way they are and have been since the language began. 

One of the trickiest things to come to terms with for a native English speaker attempting to learn Spanish, is the key role that gender plays.  In English, gender is not important unless you are speaking about a living object, ie, a person or an animal.  However, in Spanish, all nouns (person, place, thing or idea) have a gender.

 

Do nouns change gender in Spanish?

The gender of the noun is important because the adjective and articles must also be masculine.  The adjective must match the noun in terms of the gender and the number, singular or plural.

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How to remember what is male or female?

Thankfully there are some rules to follow to help you decide whether the noun takes the masculine or feminine form.

Masculine Nouns

Rule

Examples

Nouns ending in ‘o’

el libro –  book

Nouns ending in ‘ma’el problema –  problem
Nouns which refer to malesel padre –  father
Nouns ending in ‘r’el motor –  motor
Nouns ending in ‘aje’el viaje – trip
Days of the weekel lunes – Monday
Months of the year (typically used without ‘el’)enero – January
Compass directionsel norte – North
A group with mixed genders is always masculinelos estudiantes – the students


Feminine Nouns

Rule

Examples

Nouns ending in ‘a’la camisa – shirt
Nouns ending in ‘cion’ or ‘sion’la conversación–  conversation
Nouns ending in ‘dad’ or ‘tad’la ciudad – the city
Nouns ending in ‘umbre’la costumbre – tradition
Nouns ending in ‘z’la paz –  peace
Letters of the alphabetla a, la be, la ce – a,b,c
Nouns which refer to femalesla madre – mother

 

Exceptions

All rules have exceptions and the Spanish language is no different.  Typically you will need to memorize these exceptions as there is no logic that is immediately apparent. A few are listed below, but be advised that this list is not exhaustive.

el día – day

el mapa – map

el sofá – sofa

la mano – hand

la radio – radio

To avoid doubt, it is always best to learn the article (el, la, los, las, un, una, unos, unas) as it is the article that will confirm the gender of the noun.

Finally, it’s important to remember, just because you think something may typically refer to a man, it does not necessarily follow that the noun is masculine, eg. la barba – the beard.

Grammar may not necessarily be the most exciting aspect of learning a new language, however, it is fundamental. Without a strong grasp of grammar you won’t be able to communicate effectively which, let’s face it, is often the reason to learn another language.

According to Vamos Spanish Academy, learning a language is a huge challenge. When you have spent hours not making any real progress and fumbling your speech, it is easy to wonder if this is really such a good idea. But bilingualism is a valuable tool where the rewards will easily make up for the effort. Remember the reasons why you decided to learn that language and the fact that requires constant practice. Fluency is only a matter of time and effort. If you make a true effort to immerse yourself in the language, understand the culture, and practice as much as you can, you will find yourself mastering a language, which can enrich your life and give you new perspectives.

These Spanish grammar concepts (and much more) are taught at Vamos Spanish Academy.  Take a look at our website and we will be happy to help your on your way to learning Spanish

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