You’ve probably spent countless hours trying to learn which Spanish nouns are feminine and which are masculine. Some of them are more obvious, where masculine nouns that end in -o are masculine and ones that end in -a are feminine. Knowing grammatical gender in Spanish is crucial to all kinds of grammar topics, but did you know that there are Spanish nouns that can use both genders? We’ll show you some examples here so you don’t get confused when you hear them with both el and la.
Grammatical gender review
First, we want to give you a quick reminder about grammatical gender in Spanish. Nouns with gender don’t mean that they are “boy” or “girl nouns.” On the contrary, grammatical gender is a way of classifying different nouns. In fact, some languages even have neutral categories, or categories for animate or inanimate!
As mentioned earlier, most nouns that end in -o are masculine and most nouns that end in -a are feminine. In addition to this, there are a few other rules in Spanish that can help you learn and memorize grammatical gender. For example, feminine nouns can also end in:
- –ción, -sión, -zión
Generally, there are less rules for masculine nouns, but many can also end in:
- –ma, -pa, -ta
Spanish nouns that can use both genders
Over time, certain Spanish nouns started to become used with both genders. Languages grow and change, and this is one interesting feature of their evolutions! Here are some nouns that could be masculine or feminine, depending on the speaker’s geography, dialect, etc.:
- el/la sartén– frying pan
- el/la mar– sea
- el/la azúcar– sugar
- el/la calor– heat
- el/la tilde- accent mark
Depending on the region of the world and history of the speaker, you could commonly hear these words either way. Interestingly enough, you might encounter native speakers that believe their version is correct very strongly! At the end of the day, it all has to do with which dialect of Spanish they speak, because according to the Real Academia Española, all 5 of the above nouns could be masculine or feminine.