It’s Day 4 of this course on the basics of Spanish, so we’re going to start talking about a very important concept: grammatical gender.
All Romance languages have a certain feature called “grammatical gender.” This means that every noun in Spanish has a gender. Some languages have more than two grammatical genders, but luckily for Spanish learners, Spanish only has two!
The two grammatical genders in Spanish are el masculino and el feminino, or masculine and feminine.
Spanish nouns indicate their gender with their endings. In general, a noun that ends with an ‘O’ is a masculine noun, and a noun that ends with an ‘A’ is feminine.
Before we go any further, I’d like to explain that there are four different forms of the definite article in Spanish (‘the’ in English). They are the following:
The reason why we have four definite articles in Spanish is because we have one separate definite article for a singular masculine noun (el), a singular feminine noun (la), plural masculine nouns (los), and plural feminine nouns (las).
Getting back to the masculine and feminine noun genders—as I mentioned before, a noun that ends with an ‘O’ is a masculine noun, and a noun that ends with an ‘A’ is feminine.
Here are some examples of singular masculine and feminine nouns (we’ll look at plurals tomorrow):
• el libro (the book)
• el niño (the boy)
• el globo (the globe)
• la silla (the chair)
• la niña (the girl)
• la mesa (the table)
You’ll notice that the definite article “el” goes with the nouns that end in ‘O’ and the definite article “la” goes with the nouns that end in ‘A.’ That’s because they are of masculine grammatical gender and feminine grammatical gender, respectively.
However, sometimes it’s not so simple. Not all nouns in Spanish end in ‘O’ or ‘A.’
Here’s a list of noun endings that are always feminine:
Here are some example words that have these endings and are always feminine:
• la conversación (conversation), la decisión (decision)
• la ciudad (city), la pared (wall)
• la libertad (liberty), la actitud (attitude)
• la certidumbre (certainty)
• la luz (light), la razón (reason)
And here are some noun endings that are typically (but not always) masculine:
• any consonant ending (besides those listed in the feminine list)
• -ma, -pa, -ta (words that have Greek origin)
• compound words
Here are some example words with masculine endings:
• el ordenador (computer)
• el hombre (man)
• el problema (problem), el mapa (map), el planeta (planet)
• el lavaplatos (“lava” means “wash” and “platos” means “dishes,” so “lavaplatos” is ‘dishwasher)
Great! Now you have a deep understanding of what makes a noun masculine or feminine in Spanish.
Does this mean that Spanish speakers think that chairs and tables are like women and books and globes are like men? Not really! It’s just a part of grammar to make the language flow better.
Grammatical gender also matters in terms of adjectives too. It’s called “la concordancia”—making articles, nouns, and adjectives all agree grammatically. We’re going to dive into la concordancia tomorrow, so talk to you then!
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