Saturday, 14 April 2012

Tell Me, Is "canción" Feminine?

Introduction

This post deals with the gender of nouns. There are some patterns which when spotted can help us recognise the gender of Spanish nouns. This post looks at those patterns in general. More specifically, this post looks at the gender of Spanish nouns ending in -ión, for example “canción”.



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, the other person could choose to be less formal and say:
Dime, ¿es “canción” masculino o femenino?

On the other hand, he/ she could choose to be more formal and say:
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.


Remember that Spanish nouns ending in -ión are usually feminine. However, don't forget to use this rule with some caution, because there are a some notable exceptions, i.e.: nouns ending in -ión, which are masculine -see grammar below*.

Fortunately, “canción” is not one of the exceptions. So, with that in mind, perhaps you could say that “canción” is a feminine noun, e.g.:
  • canción” es femenino* (“canción” is a feminine noun)

If instead of “canción” you were asked about a noun whose gender you didn't know, you could say:
  • No si es masculino o femenino* (I don't know whether it is masculine or feminine noun).

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
What follows are some tips to help you establish the gender of Spanish nouns:

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




Caution: there are also feminine nouns ending in -o, e.g.:
  • 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. Most of those nouns are feminine. Some examples of feminine nouns ending in -a are:
  • La casa (the house)
  • La dama (the lady)
  • La ropa (the clothes)


Caution: there are also masculine nouns anding in -a, e.g.:
  • 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 ending 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 ending in -dad are usually feminine. Some examples of feminine nouns ending in -dad are:
  • La felicidad (the happiness)
  • La caridad (the charity)
  • La personalidad (the personality)

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

Caution: there are also masculine nouns ending in -ión, e.g.:
  • El camión (the lorry)
  • El chirrrión (the chariot)

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

    7. Nouns ending in -tudud.
Spanish nouns ending in -tudud are usually feminine. Some examples of feminine nouns ending in -tudud are:
  • La juventud (the youth)
  • La exactitud (the precision)
  • La pulcritud (the neatness)
  • La salud (the health)


Caution: there are also masculine nouns ending in -ud, e.g.:
  • El alud (the avalanche)
  • El ataúd (the coffin)
  • El talud (the incline)

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

Caution: there are also masculine nouns ending in -umbre, e.g.:
  • 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 doesn'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)

Caution: there also masculine nouns ending in -e, e.g.:
  • El aceite (the oil)
  • El bloque (the block)
  • El cacahuete (the peanut)
  • El carné (the identity card)

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

Caution: an example of a feminine noun ending in -er is:
  • La mujer (the woman)

Note
*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 ending in -or are usually masculine. Some examples of masculine nouns ending in -or are:
  • El sudor (sweat)
  • El pavor (terror)
  • El calor(the heat)

Caution: an example of a feminine noun ending in -or is:
  • La labor (work)

Note

*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 -trizare usually feminine. Some examples of feminine nouns ending in -triz are:
  • La actriz (the actress)
  • La emperatriz (the empress)
  • La cicatriz (the scar)

Note


*Many of these are the feminine form of certain nouns ending in -or, such as actoremperadordirectormotor, etc..





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

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