Writing help: genders in Spanish

It is easy to determine the genders of some Spanish nouns, but it is very important to be aware of the common exceptions, and to learn them.

Nouns ending in –o or –dor are generally masculine: but note that foto, mano, moto, and radio are feminine.

Nouns ending in

  • –dad
  • –dora
  • –ción
  • –sión
  • –tad
  • –tud
  • –umbre

are always feminine.

Nouns ending in –a are almost always feminine, but the following common words are masculine: el día, el mapa, el planeta

It is well worth getting into the habit of using the right gender with these words, and using the masculine form of the adjective with them, as soon as possible.

There is also a group of nouns ending in –ma which is masculine. The commonest among them are probably el problema and el programa.

  • clima
  • diploma
  • emblema
  • esquema
  • fantasma
  • idioma
  • panorama
  • problema
  • programa
  • síntoma
  • sistema
  • telegrama
  • tema

Note that if a suffix is used with any of these words, it retains the gender of the root word, thus you may hear:

Tengo un problemita con el ordenador

– I have a little problem with the computer.

Words ending in –ista can be masculine or feminine according to the person concerned:

el

or

la (taxista, tenista, artista)

There are some nouns which look masculine, but are in fact feminine. Their common feature is that they have a stressed initial a–, or a– sound. They all take el in the singular.

  • el agua tibia
  • el águila
  • el hacha

But in the plural they take las: las aguas del Nilo the waters of the Nile. In the singular it is important to remember that if they are accompanied by an adjective, then that adjective takes a feminine ending: el agua tibia.

Nouns ending in –e can be masculine or feminine and it is important to look them up if in doubt. Verb forms you are unsure about should also be checked systematically.