To name people, places, things, and ideas, you need to use nouns. In Spanish, all nouns (los sustantivos) have either masculine or feminine gender (el género). This is a purely grammatical feature; it does not mean that Spanish speakers perceive things or ideas as having male or female attributes.
Since the gender of all nouns must be memorized, it is best to learn the definite article along with the noun; that is, learn “el libro” rather than just “libro”. The definite article is given in vocabulary lists in many books.
We have some easy rules to follow to detect if a noun is femenino o masculino:
A. Most of the nouns that ends in –o are masculinos: el libro, el gato, el documento.
B. Most of the nouns that ends in –a are femeninos: la casa, la familia, la mesa.
C. Most of the nouns that ends in –ión, -tad and –dad are femeninos: la nación, la libertad, la Universidad.
D. Many nouns that refer to people indicate gender…
a. By changing the last vowel
b. By adding –a to the last consonant of the masculine form to make it feminine
el compañero – la compañera
el señor – la señora
el profesor – la profesora
Like Spanish, many other languages have the concept of gender. For example, French, Italian and Portuguese have both masculine and feminine nouns. In German, nouns can be masculine, feminine, or neuter. English has gender as well (masculine, feminine, and neuter) but it is not as obvious.
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