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Learning Grammatical Gender in Spanish

Grammatical gender is one of the most difficult concepts for a native English speaker to acquire when learning Spanish. In Spanish, grammatical gender refers to the masculine and feminine properties of words and phrases.  Although these properties are referred to as ‘gender’ features, they have nothing to do with masculinity or femininity in the way we would generally use gender to describe men and women. Thus, a masculine noun is not any more ‘manly’ than a feminine noun. These arbitrary language features do not exist in English and are very challenging for the native English speaker to acquire when learning Spanish.

Look at the spelling

A new Spanish speaker may want to begin by learning some basic Spanish nouns, including the pronunciation and spelling of the words. Some common themes for introductory chapters of textbooks for learning Spanish include foods, classroom items, basic greetings, and clothing. One trick to help you remember the gender of the noun is to look at the spelling, as a majority of feminine nouns end in –a, and the majority of masculine nouns end with an –o; however, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as the masculine word ‘dia,’ meaning ‘day.’

Be careful with your grammar

If you have learned the gender of the noun, you can take the next step and apply the gender features to the rest of the phrase. In Spanish, the gender of the noun also applies to the gender of the determiner (‘la’ for feminine and ‘el’ for masculine, both meaning ‘the’ in English) and the adjective, if there is one. So, if you want to say, ‘the white cat’ in Spanish, you would say ‘el gato blanco.’ Notice that the phrase has all masculine forms the masculine article ‘el,’ the masculine noun ‘gato,’ and the masculine form of the adjective, ‘blanco.’ Since the noun is masculine, the whole phrase should take the masculine form.

Acquiring grammatical gender in Spanish is something that takes a lot of practice and dedication to learning the language. English speakers may become frustrated with this linguistic feature because it seems simple on the surface, but it is difficult to apply in when actually speaking the language. Grammatical gender is a property that can really separate the native speakers of Spanish from the non-native speakers. Don’t worry if you make mistakes sometimes learning a language is hard, especially when there are elements of that language that do not exist in your native tongue!

If you still have problems with this or any other thing, you can send your Spanish texts to proofread!