Learning Masculine and Feminine Nouns in Spanish

Every noun in Spanish is either masculine or feminine.

You can tell which one it is by looking at the Spanish articles el (masculine) or la (feminine). Plus, most nouns that end in –o are masculine and most that end in –a are feminine.

But there’s much more to masculine and feminine Spanish nouns than that.

To become fluent, you need to know how to take nouns, adjust their articles, conform their adjectives, pluralize them when necessary, replace them with pronouns and more.

So today, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the Spanish masculino (masculine) and feminino (feminine).

Contents

Masculine Nouns in Spanish

Have a look at the following masculine nouns:

el perro (the dog)

el hombre (the man)

el vaso (the glass)

el libro (the book)

el detergente (the detergent)

el escritorio (the desk)

el espejo (the mirror)

el ventilador (the fan)

el lunes (Monday)

el rubí (the ruby)

Do you see anything interesting?

For starters, apart from the ending -o, we have -e, -r and. What does it mean?

Unfortunately, Spanish masculine nouns—no matter their type—can have many different endings, and there are no rules for them.

The only thing you can do is learn each noun with its article.

This is so true that there are even masculine words that end in the so-called “feminine” ending -a:

el día (the day)

el mapa (the map)

el aroma (the aroma, the scent)

el problema (the problem)

el diploma (the diploma)

el fantasma (the ghost)

el enigma (the enigma)

el planeta (the planet)

el tema (the topic)

el idioma (the language)

Finally, nouns ending in -ma/-pa/-ta are masculine, but this is only true if they have a Greek origin.

Don’t let your guard down, though. There are a lot of exceptions (for example, la cama (the bed), la capa (the cloak), la patata (the potato)).

Feminine Nouns in Spanish

As you know, the typical feminine ending is -a, but look at the following ten feminine nouns:

la cama (the bed)

la foca (the seal)

la piedra (the stone)

la mesa (the table)

la silla (the chair)

la ciudad (the city)

la mitad (the half)

la canción (the song)

la profesión (the profession)

la vida (the life)

Six of them end in -a, but the other four have different endings. But as you can see, feminine words don’t always end in -a.

There are even feminine words that end in the traditionally masculine ending -o:

la mano (the hand)

la radio (the radio)

la moto (the motorbike)

la foto (the photograph)

la libido (the libido)

You can easily remember that two of these words are feminine because they’re shorter versions of words that end in -a:

la moto → la motocicleta

la foto → la fotografía

But the other three just happen to end in -o and be feminine.

There are even feminine words that end in -e, -r or -z:

la gente (the people)

la mujer (the woman)

la parte (the part)

la noche (the night)

la vez (the time, the occasion)

Lastly, there are two instances where a noun that doesn’t end in -a will always be feminine:

  • -ción/-sión: if a noun ends in any of these two endings, it’ll always be feminine. Some examples are la institución (the institution), la prisión (the prison) and la reflexión (the reflection, the thinking).
  • -dad/tad: Nouns ending in -tad/-dad are always feminine: la cantidad (the quantity), la universidad (the university), la lealtad (the loyalty).

3 Rules for Using Spanish Masculine or Feminine Nouns

1. Adjectives must match the noun’s gender and quantity

An adjective has to represent both the gender of the noun it’s describing and its quantity. This usually means the ending of the adjective will change slightly.

For example:

el perro blanco (the white dog)

la rosa blanca (the white rose)

When an adjective ends in a letter like -e, their endings don’t change according to gender.

Here are a few examples:

El árbol verde (the green tree)

La chica inteligente (the intelligent girl)

El zapato grande (the big shoe)

And this same rule applies if the adjective ends in a consonant.

For example:

La niña emocional (the emotional girl)

El niño emocional (the emotional boy)

El perro gri(the gray dog)

2. Pluralization must match the noun’s gender

Pluralizing nouns is one of the easiest things to do in Spanish. You just have to add a few s’s.

Let’s look at our examples “the white rose” and “the white dog” again.

If you want to make them plural, all you have to do is make the articles, nouns and adjective plural by adding s on the end of them:

La rosa blanca las rosas blancas

El perro blanco los perros blancos

But here’s an exception: if the noun ends in a consonant, instead of adding an s, you add esFor example:

el trabajador (the worker) → los trabajadores (the workers)

el profesor (the professor) → los profesores (the professors)

la ciudad (the city) → las ciudades (the cities)

3. Pronouns must match the noun’s gender and quantity

If you have a masculine noun, the direct object pronoun is loFor example:

Perdí el billete. (I lost the ticket.) → Lo perdí. (I lost it.)

For a feminine noun, the direct object pronoun that’ll replace it is la:

Perdí la bolsa. (I lost the bag.) → La perdí. (I lost it.)

And pretty much the same thing goes for plural nouns, except instead of lo and la, we use los and las.

Escribí los documentos. (I wrote the documents.) → Los escribí. (I wrote them.)

Cosí las faldas. (I sewed the skirts.) → Las cosí. (I sewed them.)

Tips for Learning Spanish Gender Rules

Although no rules are set in stone when it comes to guessing the gender of nouns in Spanish, there are a few tips to make it easier.

  • Use the month/day/compound rule. This trick is easy to remember: all months of the year, days of the week and compound nouns are masculine in Spanish.
  • Learn new nouns together with their articles. If you learn every new noun with its corresponding article, you won’t have to deal with this issue in the future.
  • Immerse yourself in Spanish. This will undoubtedly have you recalling everything more quickly and naturally. Just be sure to find materials that are not too difficult and are of good quality. FluentU, for example, has thousands of Spanish videos you can sort by difficulty level and topics.

    FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

    You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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    Spanish podcasts are also excellent resources for immersive learning since they typically have written transcripts.
  • Use adjectives to help you remember. Try to learn nouns together with an adjective. This will double your chances of remembering the correct gender because you can remember what adjective you used, revealing the gender.
  • Remember the mnemonic LONERS. A great part of Spanish nouns ending in -l, -o, -n, -e, -r and -s tend to be masculine. However, remember there are numerous exceptions to this rule (la cal — the lime, la mano — the hand, etc.).

Must-use Resources for Practicing Masculine and Feminine Spanish Nouns

Let’s leave the theory behind and practice a little!

The following six resources include a ton of exercises on Spanish gender. Have fun!

  • SpanishDict. Here you have a 40-question quiz on masculine and feminine Spanish words. It includes brief grammar explanations for each word, even if you answer the questions correctly.
  • StudySpanish. This is a cute, short test with four exercises. You can review your answers after you submit them and correct your mistakes thanks to the hints they give you.
  • E-Spanyol. Try to guess the gender of 100 Spanish nouns!
  • Spanish To Learn Free. Practice Spanish gender to perfection with 26 fantastic exercises.
  • Quizziz. In case it wasn’t clear, this link will take you to a free library of quizzes where you can practice Spanish gender till you master it (or fall asleep, whatever happens first).
  • Quizlet. Quizlet is famous for its user-friendly flashcards and all you can do with them (from learning new words to practicing writing and listening comprehension). The deck I’ve linked here includes 63 flashcards to practice Spanish gender.

 

¿Lo tienes? (Got it?)

Pat yourself on the back for making it to the end!

Hopefully, the tips for remembering and learning Spanish gender will help you make things easier. And when in doubt, you can always come back to this post and reread it.

And One More Thing…

If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love FluentU.

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Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.

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