How to know if a word is Masculine or Feminine in Spanish? (Differentiate the Gender of Singular and Plural Nouns)

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This section is divided in two parts. First, we will look at a few guideline related to the gender of nouns in Spanish. After that, we will review the use of the singular and plural forms of masculine and feminine nouns in Spanish. Let´s get started.

What is a “noun”?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a noun is defined as “a word that is the name of something (such as a person, animal, place, thing, quality, idea, or action)”. In Spanish, nouns are either masculine or feminine, and this mental shift is one of the most challenging aspects for English Speakers who are learning “Español”.

Masculine or feminine?

Although in English there is no need to think about whether a pencil is masculine or feminine noun, it is important in Spanish because the adjectives (i. e. pretty, ugly, small, big)  and articles (the equivalents of “the” in Spanish, such as: el, la, los and las) of a sentence must match the gender and number of nouns.

 

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Here are a few examples:

The table is expensive – La mesa es cara (“mesa” is a feminine and singular noun)

The dogs are pretty – Los perros son bonitos (“perros” is a masculine and plural noun)

The food is ready – La comida está lista (“comida” is a feminine and singular noun)

 

How do you know if a noun is masculine or feminine?

Although this is a topic that often confuses beginners who try to guess if an object seems masculine or feminine (avoid this, it doesn’t work), we will review a few general guidelines that will make it easier for you to know if a noun is masculine or feminine.

Don’t worry too much about memorizing these guidelines or saying everything correctly at first. Just acknowledge them so you can understand sentences in Spanish that include a masculine or feminine noun. Ready?

 

 

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General Guideline for Masculine Nouns:

Most nouns that end in “o”, “e”, “an accented vowel” or “ma”; as well as those that end with consonants except “d”, “z” or “ción” are generally masculine nouns.

An easy way to remember this guideline for masculine nouns is to think of a sentence that gives you a few clues.

Picture the following sentence in your mind. The bolded letters in the first couple of words will help you remember the guidelines mentioned in the previous paragraph. HE refers to “Masculine nouns” and the letters highlighted after NOT will give you a hint about the exceptions):

Olé man! HE is NOT a dizzy aficionado”.

 

Here are a few common examples:

 

Masculine nouns that end in “o”:

The teacher – El maestro

The cat – El gato

The friend – El amigo

 

Masculine nouns that end in “e”:

The man – El hombre

The perfume – El perfume

The shoe – El zapato

 

Masculine nouns that end in “an accented vowel”:

The coffee – El café

The dad – El Papá

The bamboo – El bambú

 

Masculine nouns that end in “ma”:

The problem – El problema

The program – El programa

The language – El idioma

 

Consonants that are not d,z or ción:

The sun – El sol

The truck – El camión

The tree – El árbol

 

There are a few Common Exceptions:

However, there are exceptions that need to be memorized (they will come naturally with practice, don’t worry about them). Here are a few of the most common ones:

 

Feminine nouns that end with “o” (exceptions):

The photo – la foto

The hand – la mano

The radio – la radio

 

Feminine nouns that end with “e” (exceptions):

The street – La calle

The meat – La carne

The phrase – La frase

The people – La gente

The night – La noche

the cloud – La nube

The afternoon – La tarde

The mother – La madre

The class – La clase

The key – La llave

 

Other common exceptions:

The Mom – La Mamá

The honey – La miel

The salt – La sal

The skin – La piel

The flower – La flor

 

General Guideline for Feminine Nouns

Most nouns that end in “a”, “d”, “z” or “ción” are generally feminine nouns.

An easy way to remember this guideline for feminine nouns is to think of this sentence (imagine the scene vividly, the bolded letters will give you a clue): “She is a dizzy aficionada”

 

Here are a few common examples that follow this guideline:

Feminine nouns that end in “a”:

The house – La casa

The friend – La amiga

The table – La mesa

 

Feminine nouns that end in “d”:

The truth – La verdad

The thirst – La sed

The health – La salud

 

Feminine nouns that end in “z”:

The nose – La nariz

The light – La luz

The childhood – La niñez

 

Feminine nouns that end in “ción”:

The song – La canción

The imitation – La imitación

The legislation – La legislación

 

Here are a few common exceptions that need to be memorized (only a few, so don’t worry):

Masculine nouns that end with “a” (exceptions):

The water – el agua

The map – el mapa

The day – el día

 

Masculine nouns that end with “d” (exceptions):

The guest – el huésped

The record – el récord

The lawn – el césped

 

Masculine nouns that end with “z” (exceptions):

The rice – el arroz

The fish – el pez

The pencil – el lápiz

The corn – el maíz
In the previous paragraphs we have looked at guidelines related to the use of masculine and feminine nouns. Now, it is time to learn about the singular and plural forms of nouns.

 

How to use singular and plural nouns in Spanish?

The use of the singular and plural forms of nouns in Spanish is relatively similar to the way they are used in English, plus a few additional aspects to consider. The following guidelines will help you understand how to create a large majority of plural form nouns starting from their singular form.

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General Guideline 1 for Plural Nouns:

Add “s” after singular nouns that end in an unstressed vowel (a,e,i,o,u) or a stressed “e” (é) to make them plural.

 

A few examples:

The camera: La cámara (singular) – Las cámaras (plural)

The airport: El aeropuerto (singular) – Los aeropuertos (plural)

The Passport: El pasaporte (singular) – Los pasaportes (plural)

The committee: El comité (singular) – Los comités (plural)

 

General Guideline 2 for Plural Nouns:

Add “es” at the end of singular nouns that end with a consonant, the letter “y” or a stressed vowel (á, í, ó, ú), except “é”.

 

A few examples:

The briefcase: El maletín (singular) – Los maletines (plural)

The station:La estación (singular) – Las estaciones (plural)

The bus: El autobús (singular) – Los autobuses (plural)

General Guideline 3 for Plural Nouns:

If a noun ends with “z”, replace it with “ces” to make it plural.

 

A few examples:

The pencil: El lápiz (singular) – Los lápices (plural)

The voice: La voz (singular) – Las voces (plural)

The fish: El pez (singular) – Los peces (plural)

Shortcuts to understand the use of plural nouns in Spanish:

As you will notice with practice, a large majority of the plural nouns commonly used in conversational Spanish will be covered by these three guidelines (so focus on these ones to make things even simpler):

 

1- Adding “s” after unstressed vowels.

2- Adding “es” after nouns that end in a consonant.

3- Replacing “z” with “ces” in nouns that end with “z”.

 

Yes, it’s that easy. Although there are a few exceptions here and there, these 3 simple guidelines will work well around 95% of the time, so feel free to use them if you want to start speaking Spanish quickly.
Now, let´s take a moment to review the main points of this section related to the gender and number of most nouns in Spanish.

Summary about the gender of nouns:

1- Nouns in Spanish are either masculine or feminine.

2- Most nouns that end in “o”, “e”, “an accented vowel” or “ma”; as well as those that end with consonants except  “d”, “z” or “ión” are generally masculine nouns (Remember: “Olé man! HE is NOT a dizzy aficionado”.)

3- Most nouns that end in “a”, d”, “z” or “ción” are generally feminine nouns (Remember: “She is a dizzy aficionada”.)

 

Summary about the plural forms of masculine and feminine nouns:

1- Add “s” after singular nouns that end in an unstressed vowel (a,e,i,o,u) or a stressed “e” (é) to make them plural.

2- Add “es” at the end of singular nouns that end with a consonant or a stressed vowel (á, í, ó, ú), except “é”.

3- If a noun ends with “z”, replace the “z” with “ces” to make it plural.

 

 

Questions?

Do you have a question about Spanish? Is there a word or Phrase you would like to learn?

Share it in the comments section so I can help.

 

 

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