Spanish Noun Genders: Exceptions to the Rule

by Vanessa Johnson on Wednesday, October 02, 2019

As most of you know, the general rule for knowing if a Spanish noun is masculine or feminine Spanish is that if it ends in -o it’s masculine (el dinero, el libro, el bolígrafo, etc.), and if it ends in -a it’s feminine (la casa, la mesa, la rosa, etc.).

Click here to read this post in Spanish.

However, there are some exceptions you should know about that break the rule completely.

  • For example, there are words that end in -a but are masculine, like día, mapa, planeta, programa, and sofá. Several of them end in -ema (esquema, poema, problema, sistema o tema).
  • Likewise, there are nouns that end in -o but are feminine: radio, mano, foto (because it comes from fotografía), and moto (because it comes from motocicleta).

What about nouns that don’t end in -a or -o? There are other endings that usually have a certain gender:

  • For example, nouns that end in -aje or -or are almost always masculine: el paisaje, el viaje, el color, el amor, etc. However, la flor is feminine.

  • Meanwhile, nouns that end in -ción, -sión, -dad, and -tad: la canción, la relación, la expresión, la mansión, la ciudad, la verdad, la libertad, la amistad, etc., are feminine.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some nouns have only one form, regardless of the gender of the person. These nouns end in  -ista and -ante: el/la artista, el/la dentista, el/la estudiante, el/la cantante, etc. That’s why la estudianta* and el artisto* don’t exist.

Lastly, some nouns have different forms depending on the gender of the person or animal:

el hombre > la mujer

el padre > la madre

el actor > la actriz

el emperador > la emperatriz

el alcalde > la alcaldesa

el caballo > la yegua

el toro > la vaca

el gallo > la gallina

el tigre > la tigresa

Thanks to Ignacio Sellés from our school in Alicante for writing this post.


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