Anyone who tried to learn Spanish once knows how important to know the correct gender of a noun to speak the language correctly. Because many grammar rules can be applied only if you know the article of the noun.
Therefore, whenever you learn a new noun, you must memorize its article as well.
Luckily there are some rules we can rely on so that at least in some cases we can guess easily which article is used with which noun.
Of course, as always there are exceptions to the rules. But by keeping a well-organized notebook of new words, there is no reason why you cannot keep the gender of the nouns in your mind.
Here is a four step process which will make you remember Spanish articles more easily.
1. LEARN WHICH SPANISH NOUNS ARE ALWAYS MASCULINE
- weekdays are masculine:
el lunes, el martes, el miércoles, el jueves, el viernes, el sábado, el domingo
- months are masculine:
el mes, el enero, el febrero, el marzo, el abril, el may, el junio, el julio, el agosto, el septiembre, el octubre, el noviembre, el diciembre
Note also that the Spanish word for month is masculine as well:
el mes (month)
- seasons are masculine with the exception of spring:
el invierno (Winter)
el verano (Summer)
el otoño (Autumn)
la primavera (Spring)
- languages are masculine:
(el) inglés, (el) español ….
- numbers are masculine:
(el) dos (two), (el) tres (three), (el) cuatro ( four) …..
- when a noun is made from a verb, again “el” is used
(el) escribir (writing), (el) nadar (swimming)
- nouns which end in –o are 99% masculine.
el libro, el vaso, el museo …
- and of course if the physical gender is masculine:
el hombre, el padre, el marido, el director, el profesor …
2. LEARN WHICH SPANISH NOUNS ARE ALWAYS FEMININE
- letters are feminine
(la) A, (la) D, (la) Z…..
- nouns ending in –dad, -tad and –tud are feminine.
la ciudad, la universidad, la fakultad, la libertad, la juventud
- nouns ending in –cion and –sion, -gion are feminine.
la estación, la television, la religion
- nouns ending in “-umbre”
la costumbre, la incertidumbre, la legumbre
- nouns ending in “–a” are 99% feminine
la mesa, la casa, la rosa, la silla
- and of course if the physical gender is feminine:
la secreteria, la nina, la mujer, la abuela, la chica, la madre
3. BE AWARE OF SOME OTHER FACTS
Apart from the rules above, you should also know that
A. The nouns ending in –ista, –ante, -ente, -crata can have both masculine and feminine articles. In each case the meaning will be the case. Such endings are seen especially in words for professions. For example:
la cantante : singer (female)
el cantante : singer (male)
la artista : actriz
el artista : actor
la tecnócrata: technocrat (female)
el tecnócrata: technocrat (male)
B. nationalities ending in –ense, and -í are either feminine or masculine, again based on the physical gender
el estadounidense (a man from USA), la estadounidense (a woman from USA), el marroquí (male morrocan), la marroquí (female morrocan)
C. The nouns starting with a stressed –a or –ha will have an “el” article in the singular form. The most well-known example of this is the word “agua”. If you look up in a dictionary the word “agua”, you will see that it is feminine noun. But, because it is difficult to pronounce two “a”s one after the other, “el” agua is used. In plural, it’s used as a feminine noun again. That means (las) and (unas) are used as articles. Some other examples which fall into this category are
el habla, el hada, el hambre
las hablas, las hadas, las hambres
D. There are some words in Spanish which can take both masculine and feminine articles as in the case of point A. However, this time the meaning will change when different article is used.
A well-known example is
la guía: a guidebook
el guía: guide (male) and
la guía: guide (female)
Some other examples are
el capital: capital
la capital: capital city
el corte: cut
la corte: court
4. MAKE WELL-ORGANIZED LISTS FOR THE REST
A good strategy would be to keep a list of the nouns which do not obey these rules and review your vocabulary book regularly.
You can organize your “list of exceptions wordbook” in six categories:
- Nouns which end in –o, but are feminine
- Nouns which end in –a, but are masculine
- Nouns ending in “-e”. There are so many of them in Spanish and there is not a way to guess the article of the noun in this case. So pay special attention to them.
- Keep track of the nouns which fall into –a/-ha category (Point C above)
- Keep track of the nouns which fall into the category explained in Point D above
- All the others