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Gender of Nouns in Spanish

example of Spanish gender

In Spanish, there are 2 types of nouns:

  • Masculine
  • Feminine

The grammatical gender of a noun has implications in the other words of the sentence. Adjectives, pronouns and determiners must have the same gender of the noun to which they refer.

Masculine rules

In most cases, we can tell if a noun is feminine or masculine by looking at its ending.

Next, we will look at the most common rules for the masculine gender.

Masculine endings

Often, we can tell whether a noun is masculine if it ends in:

-oel perrothe dog
-eel puentethe bridge
[consonant]*el lápizthe pencil

NOTE: usually when a word ends in a consonant is masculine but not endings "-ión" and "-d" , which are often feminine.

Groups of masculine words

Some groups of words are always masculine:

  • occupations usually belonging to men

    el zapatero, el carpintero, el panadero
    the shoemaker, the carpenter, the baker

  • musical notes

    el Do, el Re, el Mi, el Fa, el Sol, el La, el Si
    C, D, E, F, G, A, B

  • rivers

    El (río) Guadalquivir, el (río) Tajo, el (río) Sena
    Guadalquivir river, Tajo river, Sena river

  • mountains and volcanoes

    el Mulhacén, los Pirineos, el Teide
    Mulhacen, Pyrenees, Mount Teide

  • seas and oceans

    el (mar) Mediterráneo, el (océano) Atlántico, el (mar) Cantábrico
    the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Cantabric Sea

  • numbers

    el uno, el dos, el tres...
    one, two, three...

  • days of the week

    el lunes, el martes...
    Monday, Tuesday...

  • colors

    el verde, el azul, el naranja
    green, blue, orange

Feminine rules

Often, we can tell whether a noun is feminine if it ends in:

-ala mesathe table
-del puentethe bridge
-iónla direcciónthe address

Unfortunately, there are many exceptions, some of the them:

el idioma
the language

el policía
the policeman

Forming Feminine Nouns

Oft, the construction of the feminine noun is easy if we know the masculine noun. There are a few simple rules:

  • If the word ends in a consonant an "-a" is added

    El doctor --> La doctora
    The doctor --> The doctor (female)

  • If the word ends in a "-o" or a "-e", the vowel changes to "-a"

    El niño --> La niña
    The boy --> The girl

    El jefe --> La jefa
    The boss --> The boss (female)

But sometimes we can not form the feminine that easily. Although the root of the word does not change, the ending is completely different:

El actor --> La actriz
Actor --> Actress

El gallo --> La gallina
Rooster --> Hen

In other cases, the feminine word is completely different:

El hombre --> La mujer
The man --> The woman

El caballo --> La yegua
The horse --> The mare

El toro --> La vaca
The bull --> The cow

Endings for both genders

There are endings that are used for both genders. They are:

  • "-ista"
  • "-ante"

In these cases, we would determine the gender from its corresponding article.

el estilista --> la estilista
The stylist (male) --> The stylist (female)

Other cases

Animal names are usually only masculine or only femenine and used for both genders. The actual sex is determined by adding "macho" (male) or "hembra" (female) after the noun.

here some Masculine animals:

el águilathe aegle
el cisnethe swan
el pájarothe bird

And some feminine animals:

la abejathe bee
la arañathe spider
la ballenathe whale

Masculine examples:

el águila macho - el águila hembra
the male eagle, the female eagle

el gorila macho - el gorila hembra
the male gorilla – the female gorilla

Feminine examples:

la jirafa macho - la jirafa hembra
the male giraffe – the female giraffe

la tortuga macho - la tortuga hembra
the male turtle – the female turtle