Spanish Lessons


Flexible Positions

Because there is no hard and fast rule to absolutely determine the gender of a noun by looking at it, you may recall that we recently advised you to always learn a noun with its article (el, la). Yet you still need to be careful, as some nouns can take either article.


Many Spanish nouns that end in ente or ante use the same form for masculine and feminine. These include el/la dibujante (the draftsman), el/la asistente (the assistant), el/la estudiante (the student), el/la paciente (the patient), el/la amante (the lover), el/la cliente (the client). See how Crista and David, who we interviewed on separate occasions in Mexico City, both introduce themselves as estudiante:

Mi nombre es Crista Pérez...

My name is Crista Perez...

y soy estudiante de economía.

and I am a student of economics.

Captions 1-2, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana - Crista Pérez

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Mi nombre es David del Valle.

My name is David del Valle.

Tengo veintiún años y soy estudiante de negocios internacionales.

I'm twenty-one years old and I'm a student of international business.

Captions 1-2, Amigos D.F. - Consejos para la calle

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Some of these nouns have recently accepted a feminine form ending in enta or anta, so you can say la presidenta (the female president), la clienta (the female client) and la sirvienta (the maid). This is not possible in all cases; for example you can never say “la estudianta,” “la pacienta,” or “la asistenta."


Yo ya sé que Andrea es una tonta por estar celosa de una sirvienta.

I know that Andrea is silly for being jealous of a maid.

Caption 54, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta

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The same is true for nouns for roles or professions that end in a: el/la contrabandista (the smuggler), el/la policía (the police officer), el/la turista (the tourist), el/la baterista (the drummer), el/la artista (the artist). Notice how both circus artist Francisco Javier and Colombian TV star Natalia Oreiro refer to themselves as artista, but change the article based on their respective genders.


Sí, tú sabes que con el tiempo uno llega a ser un artista completo.

Yes, you know that with time you become a complete artist.

Caption 26, Circo Infantil de Nicaragua - Learning the Trade

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...porque yo ya me creía una artista de verdad.

...since I believed myself to be a real artist.

Caption 75, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro

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You can read more lessons about gender in Spanish:
Lo: The Neuter Gender
Gender Reversals: "El Alma" and More


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