Spanish Lessons

Topics

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. 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

¿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

 Play Caption

 

Cuando utilizamos el idioma español.

When we use the Spanish language.

Entonces, vamos a hablar entonces ya.

So, then we are going to talk now.

Captions 5-6, Lecciones con Carolina - Errores comunes

 Play Caption

 

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

Um... the milkers go on to

pesar la leche para ver la cantidad que produce cada una.

weigh the milk to check the quantity that each one produces.

Captions 54-55, Gustavo Adolfo - Su finca lechera

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

Cuando me llega el dolor yo me arreglo

When pain hits me I manage

Caption 6, Jorge Celedón, Vicentico - Si Me Dejan

 Play Caption

 

¿Puedo ver el menú por favor?

Can I see the menu please?

Caption 12, Cata y Cleer - En el restaurante

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

4. Colors

 

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

The blue one, where we throw away paper, cardboard, magazines.

Caption 4, Rosa - Reciclar

 Play Caption

 

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

 Play Caption

 

2. Names of roads

 

Que queda ubicado sobre la Avenida Jiménez.

Which is located on Jiminez Avenue.

Caption 47, Bogotá - Chorro de Quevedo

 Play Caption

 

3. Names of letters

 

Me gustaría referirme a la pronunciación de dos letras,

I'd like to refer to the pronunciation of two letters,

la "elle" y la "ye".

the "double l" and the "y."

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

 Play Caption

 

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.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

¡Hasta la próxima!

Signup to get Free Spanish Lessons sent by email



How to Say I'm Sorry in Spanish - Discúlpame and Perdón

Let's continue our lesson about the most common ways to say “I'm sorry” in Spanish. Thank you to everybody who sent us feedback and suggestions about this lesson!
 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

We discussed the expression lo siento (I'm sorry) in our previous lesson. Let's now focus on the use and meaning of perdóna[me] and discúlpa[me]. As we mentioned before, these two words have a clear and very distinctive apologetic nature and both translate as "I'm sorry," given the appropriate context.

 

Ay... ¡perdón! ¡Perdón!

Oh... sorry! Sorry!

Caption 21, Amigos D.F. - Consejos para la calle

 Play Caption

 

Te recuerdo, no me digas así porque no lo soporto. Ay, disculpa.

I remind you, don't call me that because I can't deal with it. Oh, sorry.

Captions 30-31, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

Remember that perdón and disculpa are also nouns that mean "forgiveness" and "excuse" respectively. So you can say te pido perdón (I ask your forgiveness) or te pido disculpas (literally "I ask you to excuse me"):
 

Y si he fallado en algo, te pido perdón

And if I have failed in something, I ask your forgiveness

Caption 11, Enrique Iglesias - Mentiroso

 Play Caption 

 

¿Ya, contento? Te pido disculpas.

Happy now? I beg your forgiveness.

Captions 67-68, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 8

 Play Caption


But by simply saying perdón or disculpa you are actually using these words as verbs in the imperative form, just like "forgive me" and "excuse me" in English. That's made more evident when you attach the personal pronoun me as a suffix to either perdón or disculpa, which is very common (and adds a personal touch to the expression):
 

¡Qué mala onda, perdóname!

Jeez, forgive me!

Caption 2, Verano Eterno - Fiesta Grande - Part 5

 Play Caption

 

Pero, discúlpame, amiga.

But, sorry, friend.

Caption 15, Sofy y Caro - Entrevistar para un trabajo

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

You may want to know that even though both perdóname and discúlpame can be translated as "I'm sorry," there are subtle differences between them. In general, perdón is seen as a more heartfelt apology, and more personal. So, thoughtful people who really value precision reserve it for occasions in which they made an actual mistake, personally hurt somebody, etc. Saying disculpa or discúlpame is seen as more casual. Perhaps that's why disculpa is preferred as a simple polite expression equivalent to "excuse me" or "pardon me," phrases that don't necessarily imply you've made a mistake. Remember that, depending on your personal preference and the context, you may want to address people politely by saying (usted) disculpe or discúlpeme:

 

Disculpe, ¿y usted quién es?

Excuse me, and who are you?

Caption 39, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

How to say I'm sorry in Spanish - Lo siento

As long as we are human, we are bound to make mistakes—a simple rule that applies doubly if you are a human trying to learn a foreign language! But what distinguishes a successful learner from an intransigent one is whether one can admit to one’s mistakes and redress them, right? So, don't shy away from speaking if you make mistakes in your Spanish. Sweeten your friends up instead with a candid apology! Here's a lesson about the most common ways to say “I'm sorry” in Spanish.
 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Lo siento
 
One short and very common way to say "I'm sorry" in Spanish is lo siento (literally, "I feel it"). Using the proper intonation, this phrase can help you get out of almost any sticky situation or mistake, but, and this is very important, you have to really mean it! Why? Because, just like "I'm sorry," this little Spanish phrase can also be used in a dismissive way, for example:

Lo siento, pequeña, pero aquí las cosas hay que ganárselas.

I'm sorry, little one, but here things have to be earned.

Captions 30-31, NPS No puede ser 1 - El concurso - Part 5

 Play Caption


Perhaps that's why it's very common to add the adverb mucho (a lot) to this phrase, as in lo siento mucho (I'm very sorry) as a way to make sure that the apologetic nature of one's lo siento gets properly transmitted. Another alternative is to use repetition to stress the importance of what you are saying... You can never be too sorry, right?
 

Bueno, sí, sí, sí, lo siento mucho, Andrea, por favor. -Ay, mire, lo sientolo siento.

Well, yes, yes, yes, I am very sorry, Andrea, please. -Oh, look, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

Caption 20, Confidencial - El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 2 - Part 3

 Play Caption

 
But even lo siento mucho is not exclusively used to offer apologies. You can say it as a sarcastic remark, for example, or you can use the phrase lo siento mucho pero to casually introduce an excuse:
 

Lo siento mucho Mateo pero tengo que irme.

I'm very sorry, Mateo, but I have to leave.

Caption 42, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 8

 Play Caption


You may also hear people (especially in Spain) using que (as, since, that) instead of pero (but), as in lo siento mucho que:
 

Mariona... lo siento que llego de la biblioteca.

Mariona... I'm sorry as I'm coming from the library.

Caption 1, Blanca y Mariona - Vida en general

 Play Caption

 
Note that the expression siento que (without the pronoun lo) is also used to express empathy about an unfortunate situation:
 
Siento que te hayan despedido, Tomás.
I'm sorry you got fired, Tomas.
 
It’s also a good option when offering condolences (besides using the classic phrase mis condolencias, which is more formal and more impersonal):
 
Siento que perdieras a tu mamá, Lucía.
I'm sorry you lost your mom, Lucia.
 

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Perdóna[me] and Discúlpa[me]
 
Here are some truly apologetic words! The noun perdón (forgiveness) and the verb perdonar (to forgive) have heavy connotations in Spanish. The reason behind this is that these words are rooted in legislative or ecclesiastical contexts in which the notion of perdón is intrinsically linked to the notion of culpa (guilt, fault). The same is true of the noun disculpa (apology, forgiveness, literally "non-guilt") and the verb disculpar (to forgive, literally "to take away the guilt"). There are subtle differences between using perdón and disculpa though. We will tackle those in our next lesson, so stay tuned!

A Word Set Apart

Cognates are words in two languages that share a similar meaning, spelling, and pronunciation and are a great tool for expanding your vocabulary. However when learning cognates, you must also learn how to use them correctly. Take for example the word aparte (apart). In one of our newest videos we hear Cleer using it:

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

¿Puedo ordenarla sin cebolla y con el aderezo aparte?

Can I order it without onions and with the dressing on the side?

Caption 44, Cata y Cleer - En el restaurante

 Play Caption


In this case, English generally uses the expression "on the side" and not the cognate "apart" to translate aparte, even though expressions such as "can I have the dressing apart" or "serve the dressing apart" are not necessarily incorrect. On the other hand, Spanish does have an equivalent expression to "on the side": a un lado, which, in this case, you can certainly use instead of aparte¿Puedo ordenarla sin cebolla y con el aderezo a un lado? 

The word aparte is used a lot in Spanish. It could mean "besides, apart from, aside, as well, other than that" etcetera. For example:
 

...pero en lugar de ponerle nada más el caldito del piloncillo, aparte, se le va poniendo una leche, evaporada.

...but instead of putting into it only the little brown sugar cone broth, besides, one starts putting into it some milk, evaporated [milk].

Captions 46-48, Recetas - Capirotada

 Play Caption


It's very common to combine the word aparte with the preposition de. 

 

Pues, pero aparte de eso, para mí lo más importante es la seguridad.

Well, but besides that, for me, the most important thing is safety.

Caption 33, La Sub30 - Familias - Part 13

 Play Caption


So you can use the expression aparte de as an equivalent of "apart from" meaning "besides" or "other than that":

 

Y... aparte de la música, me gusta patinar.

And... apart from music, I like to skate.

Caption 14, Zoraida - Lo que gusta hacer

 Play Caption


Sometimes you would need the verbs separar (to separate) or apartar (to put or get apart) for expressions that in English require the word "apart." For example, while in English you say "I'm never apart from you," you can't really say nunca estoy aparte de ti in Spanish. Spanish speakers would rather say nunca me aparto de ti or nunca me separo de ti.

 

Tiene un valor muy importante para mí... jamás me separo de esa foto.

It has a very important value for me... I'm never apart from that photo.

Caption 6, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 8

 Play Caption


Spanish doesn't use aparte in the same way English uses "apart" to talk about difference or separation in time, for example:

 

Como se llevan cuatro años de diferencia.

Since they are four years apart.

Caption 26, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 1

 Play Caption


So if you want to express the idea "they were born four years apart" you would say nacieron con cuatro años de diferencia [or separación]. 
Spanish also uses the verb separar (to separate) in cases where English uses expressions such as "put apart," "drive apart," "come apart," etc.:

 

Nos separa tu temor

Your fear tears us apart

Caption 5, Ha*Ash - Lo que yo sé de ti

 Play Caption

 

Or even verbs like deshacer (to undo):
 

Evidentemente, al cocer, se va a deshacer, se va a desmenuzar.

Evidently, upon cooking, it is going to come apart, it's going to crumble.

Caption 20, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli - Part 6

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

Instead of the dramatic "tear apart" Spanish would use the prosaic abrir (to open):

 

Nos abrimos el pecho

We tear our chest apart

Caption 15, San Pascualito Rey - Hoy no es mi día

 Play Caption

Using the Spanish Verb Dar

The Spanish verb dar (to give) is very useful, especially to ask and receive good things in life. It can be used in a very literal way to express the idea of giving all sort of things, concrete or abstract, and it's also used in many idiomatic expressions. Let's analyze a few examples:

Let's start with the basic meaning of dar. The imperative mode is a big favorite:

 

Señorita, la foto es suya. -¡Dame, dame la foto!

Miss, the picture is yours. -Give me, give me the photo!

Caption 56, Yago - 3 La foto - Part 8

 Play Caption

 

Remember that the actual conjugated form of the verb here is only da (you give). However, in the imperative form it is very common to attach object pronouns to the verb forms, in effect using them as suffixes. In this case the pronoun me (to me) functions as the indirect object of the verb. It's also very common to also attach more than one pronoun, for example to substitute the direct object as well. In this case the direct object is la foto, a feminine noun. So Morena could have also simply said dámela (give it to me). If there were many fotos it would be dámelas (give them to me), and if we were talking about, let's say, zapatos (shoes), then it would be dámelos (give them to me). You know, it's just an important thing to learn. There is a saying in Spanish that goes, al que no habla, Dios no lo oye (he who doesn't speak, God won't hear).

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

The verb dar is also used to deal with abstract ideas of giving. For example, just as in English we can say something like "you give me a headache," a Spanish speakers would say me das dolor de cabeza. Spanish extends the use of dar even more, though, to express ideas for which English instead uses verbs such as "to produce," "to yield," or "to bear." 

 

Mil seiscientos cincuenta da el kilo y nos pesamos.

The kilo yields one thousand six hundred fifty and we weigh it.

Caption 8, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 6

 Play Caption

 

Digamos en la costa, también da buenas frutas.

Let's say in the coast, it also produces good fruit.

Caption 18, Rafael T. - Guatemala Hermosa

 Play Caption

 

In fact, the list of uses of dar is quite extensive. You can learn many here and maybe try to find examples in our videos. We'll focus now on the use of dar in idiomatic expressions, where the meaning of dar (to give) is completely transformed into something very different. For example, dar is used to express that something happens: 

 

No sé, se dio así.

I don't know, it happened that way.

Caption 24, Yago - 9 Recuperación - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

There is also the expression darse cuenta (to realize):

 

Mirala bien y te das cuenta que es una minita.

Look at her closely and you'll realize that it's a chick.

Caption 10, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza - Part 6

 Play Caption

 

The expression se me da por is used to express the idea of getting into the habit or liking of doing something. For example:

 

Papá, mira la casualidad, ahora que se me da por caminar te encuentro siempre.

Dad, look what a coincidence, now that I got into the habit of walking, I always run into you.

Captions 56-57, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión - Part 4

 Play Caption

 

On the other hand, when someone says that something se le da, it means that something comes natural to the person, that it is a natural talent he or she has:

 

Que se me dan bastante bien los idiomas.

That I'm pretty good at learning languages.

Caption 4, Club de las ideas - Pasión por el golf 

 Play Caption

 

Or not...

 

A mí no se me da eso de andar en reversa

I'm not good at driving in reverse

Caption 5, Gloria Trevi - Cinco minutos

 Play Caption

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

 

One last example. From the expression darse por vencido (to give up, literally "to give oneself as defeated") comes the useful question-and-answer pair, ¿Te das? - Me doy. You must learn both if you like adivinanzas (riddles). This is how you use them:

-Oro parece, plata no es. ¿Qué fruta es? / -It looks like gold, it's not silver. What fruit it is?
-No sé. Me doy. / -I don't know. I give up.
-¿Te das? / -Do you give up
Sí, me doy! / -Yes, I give up!
Fácil. Es el pláta-no. / Easy. It's the banana.

 

Grammar

You May Also Like