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?
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:
| niño |
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:
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:
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:
Nouns that change slightly for feminine and masculine forms
For some nouns, masculine and feminine forms are somewhat different:
|the king – the queen|
|the actor – the actress|
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.
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).
|-n||un / el corazón a / the heart|
|-r||un / el amor a / the love|
|-s||un / el bus a / the bus|
|-l||un / el árbol a / the tree|
|-x||un / el torax a / the thorax|
|-y||un / 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 week||el lunes Monday|
|Colors||el azul the blue|
|Numbers||el diez the ten|
|Languages||el español Spanish|
|Rivers, oceans, mountains, and volcanoes||el Amazonas The Amazon |
el Atlántico The Atlantic
el Aconcagua The Aconcagua
el Cotopaxi The Cotopaxi
|Compound nouns made from verbs||el 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:
|-aje||el traje the suit|
|-ambre||el hambre the hunger|
|-ate||el escaparate the wardrobe|
|-ete||el clarinete the clarinet|
|-ote||el camarote the bunk bed|
|-miento||el pimiento the pepper|
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).
|-dad||la solidaridad the solidarity|
|-tad||la amistad the friendship|
|-tud||la latitud the latitude|
|-ión||la canción the song|
|-ez||la timidez the shyness|
|-eza||la belleza the beauty|
|-umbre||la cumbre the summit|
|-is||la crisis the crisis|
|-ia||la gracia the grace|
|-ie||la superficie the surface|
|-ncia||la 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 |
|el cine |
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:
|la catedral |
|el día |
|la foto |
|el idioma |
|la imagen |
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 Pope||la papa||the potato|
|el capital||the investment||la capital||the capital city|
Nouns referring to animals
- 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.
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