Saturday, 14 April 2012

Tell Me, Is "canción" Feminine?


SCENARIO
Imagine you are talking to a relative, a friend or a colleague. Maybe you are studying Spanish together. The other person appears to have a doubt about the gender of a Spanish noun and says to you something like: "tell me, is “canción” a masculine or feminine word?".

In Spanish, he/ she could choose to be less formal and say to you:
Dime, ¿es “canción” masculino o femenino?

On the other hand, he/ she could choose to be more formal and say to you:
Dígame, ¿es “canción” masculino o femenino?


OUR TIP
The question is an invitation for you to state the gender of a Spanish noun. When you state the gender of a Spanish noun, you DO NOT need to be concerned about the level of formality in the other person's question. Your main concern should be about communicating the gender of the Spanish noun in question. Perhaps you want to say that:
  • The noun in question is feminine.
  • The noun in question is not masculine.
  • You don't know the gender of the noun in question

Here are some examples of what you could say about the gender of a Spanish noun:
  • Canción” es femenino* (“canción” is a feminine noun).
  • Canción” no es masculino, es femenino* (“canción” is not a masculine, but a feminine noun).
  • No sé si “canción” es masculino o femenino* (I don't know whether “canción” is masculine or feminine).

Now you should practice talking about the gender of nouns to someone who says to you:
Now you should practice replying to someone who says to you:
Dime, ¿es “canción” masculino o femenino?

*Please see grammar below

Grammar-The Gender of Nouns
Some patterns in the gender of Spanish nouns are as follows:

    1. Nouns ending in -o
A large number of Spanish nouns end in -o. Those nouns are usually masculine. Some examples of nouns in this group are:
  • El camino (the way), el carro (the cart/ car), el chopo (the poplar).

However, you need to be careful, because there are also some notable exceptions (feminine nouns ending in -o), such as:
  • La radio (the radio), la mano (the hand), la foto (the photo), la moto (the motorbike).

2. Nouns ending in -a.
A large number of Spanish nouns end in -a. Those nouns are usually feminine. Some examples of nouns in this group are:
  • La casa (the house), la dama (the lady), la ropa (the clothes).

However, you need to be careful, because there are also some notable exceptions (masculine nouns anding in -a), such as:
  • El día (the day), el tema (the theme), el sistema (the system), el problema (the problem), el teorema (the theorem).

3. Nouns ending in -aje.
Spanish nouns end in -aje are usually masculine. Some examples of nouns in this group are:
  • El equipaje (the luggage), el paisaje (the scenery) , el garaje (the garage).

4. Nouns ending in -dad.
Spanish nouns end in -dad are usually feminine. Some examples of nouns in this group are:
  • La felicidad (the happiness), la caridad (the charity), la personalidad (the personality).

5. Nouns ending in -ión.
Spanish nouns end in -ión are usually feminine. Some examples of nouns in this group are:
  • La canción (the song), la oración (the prayer), la producción (the production).

However, you need to be careful, because there are also some notable exceptions (masculine nouns ending in -ión), such as:
  • El camión (the lorry), el chirrrión (the charriot) .

6. Nouns ending in -tad.
Spanish nouns end in -tad are usually feminine. Some examples of nouns in this group are:
  • La libertad (the freedom), la lealtad (the loyalty), la amistad (the friendship).

7. Nouns ending in -tud/ ud.
Spanish nouns end in -tud/ ud are usually feminine. Some examples of nouns in this group are:
  • La juventud (the youth), la exactitud (the precision), la pulcritud (the neatness), la salud (the health).

However, you need to be careful, because there are also notable exceptions (masculine nouns ending in -ud), such as:
  • El alud (the avalanche), el ataúd (the coffin), el talud (the incline).

8. Nouns ending in -umbre.
Spanish nouns end in -umbre are usually feminine. Some examples of nouns in this group are:
  • La costumbre (the habit), la legumbre (the legume), la pesadumbre (the grief/ sorrow).

However, you need to be careful, because there are also notable exceptions (masculine nouns ending in -umbre), such as:
  • El alumbre (the alum), el deslumbre (the dazzling), el cazumbre (a type of rope).

9. Nouns ending in -e.
Many Spanish nouns end in -e. The gender of nouns in this group don't follow a specific pattern.
Some examples of feminine nouns in this group are:
  • La carne (the meat), la parte (the part), la nieve (the snow).

Some examples of masculine nouns in this group are:
  • El aceite (the oil), el bloque (the block), el cacahuete (the peanut).

10. Nouns ending in -er*.
Spanish nouns end in -er are usually masculine. Some examples of nouns in this group are:
  • El géiser (the geyser), el ayer (the past), el éter (ether).

However, a notable exception (feminine noun ending in -er) is:
  • La mujer (the woman).

*NB Most Spanish words ending in -er are action words/ verbs. For example, “saber” (to know). I would like to draw your attention to the use in English of the gerund as a noun (the gerund subject/ object), in this example, knowing. Please note that in Spanish, we don't use the present participle/ gerund in such cases. In Spanish, it is the infinitive (“saber”) which is used instead. The gender of such gerund subjects/ objects in Spanish is usually masculine (“el saber”). For example: knowing is good = el saber es bueno.

    11. Nouns ending in -or.
Spanish nouns end in -or are usually masculine. Some examples of nouns in this group are:
  • El sudor (sweat), el pavor (terror), el calor* (the heat).

However, a notable exception (feminine noun ending in -or) is:
  • La labor (work).

*NB The Spanish noun “calor” is sometimes used as a feminine noun. For example, some people may say: “Hace una calor insoportable”.


    12. Nouns ending in -triz.
Spanish nouns which end in -triz* are usually feminine. Some examples of nouns in this group are:
  • La actriz (the actress), la emperatriz (the empress), la cicatriz (the scar).

*NB Many of these are the feminine form of certain nouns ending in -or, such as actor, emperador, director, motor, etc..

Now you should practice using the gender of nouns with some examples of your own.


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