How do you know the gender of Spanish nouns?

How do you know the gender of Spanish nouns

To know the gender of Spanish nouns, take a look at the noun ending or the gender of the article before it. It is important to identify the gender of Spanish nouns because the adjectives 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). This post will review how to recognize the gender of animate and inanimate nouns and review misleading nouns’ gender, nouns that change meaning based on gender, and nouns referring to animals. Keep reading to learn more!

Table of Contents

For a review of grammar terms used in the post, make sure to check out the Unpacking the grammar section at the end.

How do you recognize gender in Spanish nouns?

To recognize gender in Spanish nouns, examine the ending of the noun: most nouns ending in -o are masculine (hermano, brother; libro, book), and those ending in -a are feminine (hermana, sister; taza, cup.) Although this is a good starting point, this is not always the case, you can also memorize the various ending patterns (listed below) for nouns referring to inanimate objects.

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: 


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 and only change the article. This means they have a singular 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 that end in -e in their masculine form that refer to animate objects. For these cases, the feminine form 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

    For the gender of nouns referring to inanimate objects, such as things, places, ideas, etc, the rules are different. 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).

    -nun / el corazón    a / the heart
    -run / el amor       a / the love
    -sun / el bus        a / the bus
    -lun / el árbol      a / the tree
    -xun / el torax      a / the thorax
    -yun / el buey      a / the ox

    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:

    Days of the weekel lunes Monday
    Colorsel azul the blue
    Numbersel diez the ten
    Languagesel español Spanish
    Rivers, oceans, mountains, and volcanoesel Amazonas The Amazon
    el Atlántico The Atlantic
    el Aconcagua The Aconcagua
    el Cotopaxi The Cotopaxi
    Compound nouns made from verbsel sacacorchos the corkscrew

    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:

    -ajeel traje the suit
    -ambreel hambre the hunger
    -ateel escaparate the wardrobe
    -eteel clarinete the clarinet
    -oteel camarote the bunk bed
    -mientoel pimiento the pepper

    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).

    -dadla solidaridad the solidarity
    -tadla amistad the friendship
    -tudla latitud the latitude
    -iónla canción the song
    -ezla timidez the shyness
    -ezala belleza the beauty
    -umbrela cumbre the summit
    -isla crisis the crisis
    -iala gracia the grace
    -iela superficie the surface
    -nciala emergencia the emergency

    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).

    el restaurante
    the restaurant
    la clase
    the class
    el cine
    the cinema
    la noche
    the night

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

    What are misleading nouns?

    Misleading nouns are nouns that refer to inanimate objects that may have the ending of a specific gender but are actually the opposite gender. These nouns are exceptions to the rules above. Look at some examples in the following table:

    el clima
    la catedral
    el día
    la foto
    el idioma
    la imagen
    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 change their meanings based on their gender (meaning when they are used with feminine or masculine articles).

    el Papa the Popela papa the potato
    el capital the investmentla capital the capital city

    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. Check out this list for a quick reference about the different cases and words for animals based on their gender.


    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.
    Are you interested in learning more about Spanish Grammar? Check out our Spanish Grammar Homepage.
    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

    Meet The Author:
    Natalia Molina
    Natalia Molina Ceballos
    Spanish Coach
    Natalia is a Spanish coach at Mango Languages.

    To embark on your next language adventure, join the Mango fam!

    Extra Resources:

    Animal Nouns
    Nouns That Change Meaning


    Nouns Activity 1
    Nouns Activity 2
    Nouns Activity 3


    Nouns Activity 1
    Nouns Activity 2
    Nouns Activity 3

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