Spanish Feminine Nouns with a Masculine Article: “El agua”, “el águila”…

There are some nouns in Spanish which, despite being feminine, sometimes use the masculine articles “el” and “un”.

Examples:

  • el agua = the water
  • un agua = a water
  • el águila = the eagle
  • un águila = an eagle

This happens to feminine nouns which start with a stressed “a” or “ha”, and they just sound better in the company of the masculine article.

 

Keep in mind that, even when they are using the masculine article “el” or “un”, these nouns are feminine for everything else. If they are followed by an adjective, this adjective will be in its  feminine form.

For example:

  • un águila muy bonita = a very beautiful eagle
  • el alma sincera = the sincere soul

 

List of affected nouns

Here are some of the nouns for which this phenomenon occurs. Remember, they all have in common that they all begin with “a” (or “ha”) and that “a” sounds stressed.

Spanish English
el aguawater
el águilaeagle
el albadawn
el almasoul
el ama de casahousewife
el anclaanchor
el armaweapon
el arpaharp
el asmaasthma
el aulaclassroom
el hablaspoken language
el hachaaxe
el hambrehunger

 

We use the masculine articles with these nouns under 2 conditions

There are 2 conditions that need to happen for us to use masculine articles with these nouns:

  1. The noun has to be singular, not plural.
  2. No word can be placed between the article and the noun.

 

Examples:

El águila es grande y poderosa = The eagle is big and powerful.

Esta es un arma muy moderna = This is a very modern weapon.

 

If the 2 conditions don’t happen, then we use feminine articles

If the 2 conditions don’t happen, then we revert to the feminine articles.   

For example, if the noun is plural:

Las hablas de esta región son muy extrañas = The spoken languages of this region are very strange.

Son unas amas de casa muy simpáticas = They are very friendly housewives

 

Or if there is any word between article and noun:

Ella tocó la preciosa arpa = She played the very beautiful harp.

El guerrero tiene una gran hacha = The warrior has a big axe.

 

Or Click here to see all our Grammar Lessons