Masculine or feminine: Gender in Spanish

In the Spanish language the name makes a difference between masculine and feminine

There are nouns that change gender depending on the final vowel (desinence) and there are nouns that are always masculine or feminine. There are also nouns that are the same for masculine and feminine and are differentiated only by the article. Finally, there are ambiguous nouns, which are neither masculine nor feminine.

  1. Nouns that change gender depending on the final vowel (desinence)

In this type of noun, the final vowel is usually “o” for the masculine and “a” for the feminine:

Masculine                           Feminine

niño                                       niña

gato                                       gata

chico                                     chica

Este perro se llama Max y esta perra se llama Dina.

It a can also happen that the final vowel is “e” for the male and “a” for the female:

Masculine              Feminine

jefe                             jefa

nene                          nena

duque                       duquesa

El conde regaló un anillo a la condesa

There are also nouns that have no desinence (final vowel) in the masculine but add a vowel in the feminine:

Masculine               Feminine

concejal                    concejala

señor                         señora

cazador                     cazadora

El profesor entregó el cuaderno a la profesora

2. Nouns that are always masculine or feminine

They are many and we can identify them by the article or adjective that accompanies them

Always masculine           Always feminine

césped                                  pared

amanecer                             canción

camino                                  cocina

El árbol es muy alto (masculine)*

La crisis es muy profunda (feminine)*

*Adjectives always agree in gender and in number with the noun they describe:

 El gato blanco (masculino/singular)

La gata blanca (femenino/singular)

Los gatos blancos (masculino/plural)

Las gatas blancas (femenino/plural)

3. Nouns that are the same for the masculine and feminine and differ only by the article

Masculine                Feminine

el estudiante          la estudiante

el artista                    la artista

el testigo                   la testigo

El pianista español interpretó una pieza con la pianista británica

4. Ambiguous nouns, which are neither masculine nor feminine

Masculine and Feminine

el mar / la mar

el acné / la acné

There are a few strange nouns that are masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural (languages have these things…):

El arte / las artes plásticas

5. Animals

There are many animal names that do not change grammatical gender regardless of the sex of the animal: ardilla (squirrel), hipopótamo (hippopotamus), tiburón (shark), pantera (panther), cuervo (crow)…

Masculine                Feminine

la ardilla macho      la ardilla hembra

el tiburón macho    el tiburón hembra

6. Nouns that differentiate masculine and feminine with different  words

In some nouns masculine and feminine are not differentiated by a final vowel (desinence) or by the article that accompanies them. They have different words according to gender.

Masculine               Feminine

padre                         madre

yerno                         nuera

hombre                     mujer

caballo                      yegua

macho                       hembra

padrino                     madrina

TIP:

At Escribe en Español we don’t like to learn lists by heart, but if you are able to learn this one, you will know how to distinguish most of the masculine and feminine nouns in Spanish.

Masculine nouns end in:

O (gato)

L (árbol)

N (camaleón)

E (carruaje)

R (actor)

S (martes)

But there are some exceptions: el pie – el día – el lápiz – el sofá – el camión – el corazón

Feminine nouns end in:

A (gata)

D (edad)

ON (oración)

Z (actriz)

IS (crisis)

IE (barbarie)

UMBRE (muchedumbre)

But there are some exceptions: la cárcel – la clase – la flor – la gente – la imagen – la noche – la nieve – la parte – la mano – la leche – la madre – la mujer

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