Karen Spanish Tutor
7 Tips For Getting The Gender of Spanish Words Right First Time
Updated: Aug 25, 2020
Unlike English, the Spanish language is organised by gender. Some words are masculine and some words are feminine. In turn, adjectives change depending on the gender of the word they describe. The question is how do we tell which words are masculine and which words are feminine?
Many people fall into the trap of assuming that words with stereotypical male associations will be masculine and vice versa. This is certainly not always the case. “A tie” in Spanish is feminine - “la corbata” whereas “make-up” is masculine - “el maquillaje”.
TIP ONE: Rule of Thumb
In general, words ending in ‘O’ will be masculine and words ending in ‘A’ will be feminine. This is a good starting point when trying to establish the gender of a Spanish word. That said, as always there are exceptions to this rule!
Photo by Katya Austin on Unsplash
TIP TWO: Living Creatures
You can be absolutely sure that all living creatures which end in ‘O’ will be masculine and those that end in ‘A’ will be feminine.
Una Mariposa - A Butterfly (Feminine)
Un Perro – A Dog (Masculine)
Photo by Michele Bergami on Unsplash
TIP THREE: Words Imported from Other Languages Often Break the Rules
There are a few words in Spanish that come originally from non-romance languages, particularly Greek, which do not follow the general rule for establishing gender.
Un día (masculine) – a day
Un mapa – a map
Una foto – a photo
La radio – a radio
Photo by Will Francis on Unsplash
TIP FOUR: Look out for a ‘ma’ ending
Most nouns that end in ‘ma’ will be masculine. There are a couple of exceptions to this but it serves as a good guide.
el problema (masculine) – the problem
el clima (masculine) – the climate
el programa (masculine) – the programme
TIP FIVE: Words with Certain Endings Will Always Be Feminine
Nouns that end in:
will always be feminine.
La cancion (feminine) – The song
La verdad (feminine) – The truth
La costumbre (feminine) – The custom
La actitud (feminine) – The attitude
Photo by Josh Rocklage on Unsplash
TIP SIX: D, Z and Other Consonants
Words ending in d or z are often feminine. Often words ending in other consonants are masculine.
La paz (feminine) – The peace
La luz (feminine) - The light
La salud (feminine) – The health
La felicidad (feminine) – The happiness
TIP SEVEN: Words that have both masculine and feminine forms.
Some nouns that refer to professions have the same form for masculine and feminine. The article is the only thing that changes.
el piloto - the male pilot
la piloto - the female pilot
el poeta - the male poet
la poeta - the female poet
Photo by Oscar Sutton on Unsplash
I hope this article has helped give you some tips when trying to work out whether to put ‘el’ or ‘la’ in front of a Spanish noun .
Take a look at this article for more tips on how to expand you Spanish vocabulary.
Leave a comment and feel free to ask any questions below.
Hi, I am Karen. I am a languages tutor and blogger. I offer online tuition for students across the UK. I live in Tonbridge, in Kent, with my husband and my son. For me learning Spanish has meant fun, adventure, friendship and fulfilling work. I love sharing all that I have learnt with my students and via my blog. If you would like to receive 10% off your first online lesson, as well as regular updates and tips for learning Spanish, subscribe here.