Gender | Género

Grammar: The gender of nouns

The gender of nouns | Género de sustantivos

All Spanish nouns have a lexical gender, either masculine or feminine. There is no neuter in Spanish (fortunately for those who learn the language!). Determining the gender of a Spanish word is quite simple. You just need to remember a few typical endings.

First, let’s have a look at the most important endings:

Most nouns of masculine gender (masculino) have the ending “o”:

  • el libro (book)
  • el año (year)
  • el tiempo (time)

While most feminine nouns (femenino) end in “a”:

  • la semana (week)
  • la comida (food, lunch)
  • la ventana (window)

There are only a few exceptions to this rule that you need to remember:

masculine gender (masculino) feminine gender (femenino)
el día (day) la mano (hand)
el programa (programme) la radio (radio)
el problema (problem) la foto (photo)
el poeta (male poet) la moto (motorcycle)

Important: Nouns with the ending “-ma” always fall into the category of exceptions, because usually these are words of Greek origin that retain their original (masculine) gender: el diploma (diploma), el dilema (dilemma) etc.

Now that we know the basic rule, let’s add some extra endings to it to help you categorize all other Spanish words into masculine and feminine:

Род Endings Examples
Masculino (masculine) -o el cielo (sky)
-ma el problema (problem)
-or el doctor (doctor)
-aje el garaje (garage)
-ismo el socialismo (socialism)
-mento el monumento (monument)
Femenino (feminine) -a la mesa (table)
-dad la ciudad (city)
-ción/sión la emoción (emotion)
-tud la juventud (youth)
-ez la estupidez (stupidity)

Remembering all possible word endings at once is difficult (and unnecessary). The key to success is paying attention to the gender of every new word you are learning. Try to memorize nouns together with their article ( el día , la casa).

Some endings don’t reveal the gender of the word. For example, the ending “e” can occur in both masculine and feminine nouns: el coche (car), la noche (night).

The endings “-te” and “-ista” can be either masculine or feminine, depending on the meaning:

  • el cantante (male singer) – la cantante (female singer)
  • el periodista (male journalist) – la periodista (female journalist)

If you wish to form a feminine noun from a masculine noun, in most cases you will need to add the ending “а”:

Masculino Femenino
consonant ending el doctor (male doctor) la doctora (female doctor)
el profesor (male teacher) la profesora (female teacher)
el traductor (male translator) la traductora (female translator)
ending “о” el gato (cat) la gata (female cat)
el chico (boy) la chica (girl)
el cocinero (male chef) la cocinera (female chef)

However, there are also other endings used in the formation of feminine words: -esa, -isa, -ina, -triz.

Masculino Femenino
el rey (king) la reina (queen)
el actor (actor) la actriz (actress)
el emperador (emperor) la emperatriz (empress)
el poeta (male poet) la poetisa (female poet)
el gallo (cock) la gallina (hen)
el tigre (tiger) la tigresa (tigress)
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