Gender in Spanish – El género del sustantivo en español

This time we are going to cover the gender in Spanish. There are two genders (géneros) in Spanish language: masculine and feminine (masculino y femenino). There is no neutral gender in Spanish, so in this language nouns are either masculine or feminine.

How to find out gender in Spanish nouns

There are some general rules to determine the gender of Spanish nouns, but, as always, there are exceptions that make this topic a bit more challenging. But, in general, gender in Spanish may be a simple topic if you follow the general rules and keep in mind some of the most common exceptions.

Masculine nouns in Spanish (Sustantivos masculinos en español)

  • In general, nouns ending in -o are masculine: el libro, el cielo, el bolígrafo.
    There are some exceptions to this rule, these are the most common: la mano, la radio, la moto, la foto.
    Note that the two last examples, moto and foto, are abbreviated nouns of motocicleta and fotografía. As you see, their complete nouns end in -a; they are feminine. The abbreviated nouns are colloquial and more used than the complete ones, specially la moto, which is much more common than la motocicleta.
  • Nouns ending in -aje are masculine: el viaje, el maquillaje, el peaje.
  • Nouns ending in -ambre are generally masculine: el enjambre, el hambre, el calambre.
  • Some nouns ending in -or are masculine: el amor, el motor, el profesor.
  • Nouns ending in -án are masculine in general: el refrán, el albarán, el cancán.
  • Many nouns ending in -ma are also masculine: el problema, el tema, el pijama.
  • The compound names in Spanish that are formed by a verb and a noun are masculine: el sacacorchos (sacar + corchos), el paraguas (parar + aguas).
  • The days of the week in Spanish are also masculine: el lunes, el martes, el miércoles, el jueves, el viernes, el sábado, el domingo.
  • The colours in Spanish are masculine: el azul, el rojo, el verde, el amarillo…
  • The cardinal points in Spanish are masculine too: el norte, el sur, el este, el oeste.

Feminine nouns in Spanish (Sustantivos femeninos en español)

  • In general, nouns ending in -a are feminine: la casa, la vida, la taza.
  • Nouns ending in -dad are feminine: la ciudad, la soledad, la verdad.
  • Nouns ending in -tad are feminine: la libertad, la amistad, la pubertad.
  • Nouns ending in -tud are feminine: la virtud, la senectud.
  • Nouns ending in -ción and -sión are usually feminine: la estación, la revolución, la misión, la obsesión.
  • The nouns ending in -itis are also feminine, and these are usually names of illnesses: la gingivitis, la apendicitis.
  • Nouns ending in -umbre are feminine: la muchedumbre, la incertidumbre.
  • Nouns ending in -ie are also feminine: la superficie, la calvicie.

Invariant nouns or common gender in Spanish (Sustantivos comunes en el género)

Some nouns in Spanish are invariable, that is, they are the same noun in both the masculine and feminine gender. These are known as invariant or invariable nouns, or common nouns regarding gender. This is the case of:

  • Nouns ending in -ista: el / la artista.
  • Nouns ending in -e like el / la paciente.
    There are exceptions to this rule, since there are nouns ending in -e that do have a specific ending in -a for the feminine gender, like these:
    el jefe – la jefa (but it is also valid la jefe) / el presidente – la presidenta (but is is also valid la presidente).
    Although both are valid, if a word ending in -e has a specific ending in -a for the feminine gender, this is generally more used than the noun ending in -e with the feminine article.
  • Nouns ending in -a that are referred to people (this usually happens with some job names): el / la pediatra, el / la aristócrata, el / la logopeda.
  • There are nouns that are always common in terms of gender, like the following:
    • el / la piloto
    • el / la testigo
    • el / la conserje

Traditionally, the names of jobs only had a common gender (mostly with an -o ending), el / la arquitecto, for instance.
But, as time went by, these names stopped being common in terms of gender and split into masculine (-o ending) and feminine (-a ending): el arquitecto / la arquitecta.

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