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Gender of inanimate objects in Spanish

Let's talk about gender. How do you know if a word like leche (milk) or mapa (map) is feminine or masculine? Let's explore some rules (and exceptions) that will help you to identify the gender of inanimate objects in Spanish. Please, keep in mind that we will use the definite articles el (masculine) and la (feminine) in order to better recognize the gender of the nouns we are mentioning throughout this article. 

 

Nouns ending in -o and -a

 

Generally speaking, nouns that end in -o are masculine while those ending in -a are feminine. Let's see some of the most common objects that follow this rule:

 

Masculine nouns ending in -o:

El libro (the book)

El baño (the bathroom)

El piano (the piano)

El diccionario (the dictionary)

El asiento (the seat)

 

Feminine nouns ending in -a:

La casa (the house)

La cama (the bed)

La lámpara (the lamp)

La cocina (the kitchen)

La caja (the box)

 

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Let's look at some of the most common ones.

 

Feminine nouns ending in -o:

La mano derecha se colocará en esta posición llamada acorde de LA mayor,

The right hand will be placed in this position called A major chord,

Caption 1, Curso de guitarra Para los que empiezan desde cero - Part 1

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Es la foto de mis abuelos, es mi familia.

It's a photo of my grandparents. It's my family.

Caption 5, Yago 3 La foto - Part 8

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Masculine nouns ending in -a:

Y bueno, el día llega a su fin, y llegas a casa a relajarte,

And well, the day comes to an end, and you get home to relax,

Captions 80-81, Natalia de Ecuador Vocabulario de prendas de vestir

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Por ejemplo: problema, el problema, mapa, el mapa.

For example: problem, the problem, map, the map.

Captions 16-17, Isabel El Género Gramatical - Masculino y Femenino

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¿Y pudieron conocer el planeta de su amigo?

And were you able to see your friend's planet?

Caption 31, Guillermina y Candelario Un marciano en la playa - Part 2

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cuando utilizamos el idioma español. Entonces, vamos a hablar entonces ya.

when we use the Spanish language. So, then we are going to talk now.

Captions 5-6, Lecciones con Carolina Errores comunes - Part 5

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Nouns ending in -e, -i, -u or a consonant

There is no particular rule for this group. Some of the nouns here are masculine while others are feminine. Some examples:

eh... los ordeñadores pasan a pesar la leche para ver la cantidad que produce cada una

um... the milkers go on to weigh the milk to check the quantity that each one produces

Captions 54-55, Gustavo Adolfo Su finca lechera

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Se arma el árbol, el pesebre, los niños llevan sus instrumentos musicales.

The tree is set up, the manger, the children carry their musical instruments.

Caption 40, Lida y Cleer Buñuelos

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La India Catalina era la líder de la tribu indígena

India Catalina was the leader of the indigenous tribe

Caption 26, Viajando en Colombia Cartagena en coche - Part 3

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Most nouns ending in -aje, -ambre, -án, -or or in a stressed vowel tend to be masculine

Let's look at some examples in this group:

Me relajo y contemplo el paisaje.

I relax and I look at the landscape.

Captions 30-31, Natalia de Ecuador Los adverbios de orden

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Cuando me llega el dolor yo me arreglo

When pain hits me I manage

Caption 6, Jorge Celedón, Vicentico Si Me Dejan

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¿Puedo ver el menú por favor?

Can I see the menu please?

Caption 12, Cata y Cleer En el restaurante

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Most nouns ending in -cia, -ción, -dad, -eza, -ie, -itis, -nza, -sión, -tad, -tud and -umbre are feminine

La ciencia nunca falla, caballero.

Science never fails, sir.

Caption 39, Los casos de Yabla Problemas de convivencia - Part 3

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la acentuación es la acción y efecto de acentuar,

accentuation is the action and effect of accenting,

Caption 13, Carlos explica Acentuación Cap. 1: Conceptos básicos

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Mi hijo quiere estudiar inglés o japonés el próximo año en la universidad.

My son wants to study English or Japanese next year in college.

Caption 25, Lecciones con Carolina Conjunciones disyuntivas

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Nouns that belong to the following categories are masculine

 

1. Oceans, lakes and rivers

Tenemos el océano Pacífico y el océano Atlántico

We have the Pacific ocean and the Atlantic ocean

Caption 24, Melany de Guatemala País de la Eterna Primavera

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2. Days of the week

El martes, también salí por la noche.

On Tuesday, I also went out at night.

Caption 11, El Aula Azul La Doctora Consejos: El pasado

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3. Numbers

y que el cien por cien de las ganancias pues iban destinadas a la coalición española

and one hundred percent of the profits were going to the Spanish coalition

Caption 45, David Bisbal Haciendo Premonición Live - Part 7

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4. Colors

el azul, donde echamos el papel, cartón, revistas,

the blue one, where we throw away paper, cardboard, magazines,

Caption 4, Rosa Reciclar

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Nouns that belong to the following categories are feminine

 

1. Names of islands

Eh... Les recomiendo que vengan a visitar las islas Galápagos.

Um... I recommend that you come to visit the Galapagos Islands.

Caption 1, Galápagos Una visita a este archipiélago

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2. Names of roads

que queda ubicado sobre la Avenida Jiménez,

which is located on Jiminez Avenue,

Caption 47, Bogotá Chorro de Quevedo

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3. Names of letters

Me gustaría referirme a la pronunciación de dos letras, la "elle" y la "ye".

I'd like to refer to the pronunciation of two letters, the "double l" and the "y."

Captions 6-8, Carlos y Cyndy La pronunciación en Colombia y Argentina

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Nouns with gender ambiguity

There are some inanimate nouns that can be either feminine or masculine, which means both forms are accepted.

 

El mar / la mar (the sea). For this noun, the masculine form is used more often.

El maratón / la maratón (the marathon). Both forms are accepted.

El arte / las artes (the arts). Usually the masculine form is used in the singular and the feminine one in the plural.

El sartén / la sartén (the pan). While the masculine noun is the most frequently used, some countries in the Americas tend to favor the feminine form.

 

Gender of 'almost' identical nouns

There are various words that are almost identical but they differ in meaning. Very often, indeed, you can fully grasp that difference by bringing the gender variable into it. Let's see some examples:

 

El cuchillo (the knife) / La cuchilla (the blade)

El barco (the ship) / La barca (the boat)

El bolso (the purse) / La bolsa (the bag)

El puerto (the port) / la puerta (the door)

El cuadro (the painting) / La cuadra (the block)

El manzano (the apple tree) / La manzana (the apple)

 

That's it for today. We hope you find this lesson useful and we invite you to send us your comments and suggestions.

 

¡Hasta la próxima!

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