Spanish Feminine nouns with Masculine articles

Is agua masculine or feminine in Spanish

Is the word “agua” masculine or feminine in Spanish?

That’s a question many Spanish learners ask themselves, and we will answer it in this lesson.

In Spanish, there are a few nouns which, despite being feminine, are sometimes preceded by the masculine articles el and un.

Two examples of feminine nouns with masculine articles: "agua" and "arma"
Two examples: “agua” and “arma”

In this lesson we will learn exactly when that happens, providing examples.

At the end you’ll find an Exercise for practice.

Which nouns have this?

This phenomenon happens to every feminine noun that has the following 2 characteristics at the same time:

  1. The feminine noun begins with “a” or “ha”
  2. That first “a” is the stressed vowel in the noun


Here’s a list of the most frequent nouns where it happens:

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

When do we use “el” and “un”?

As we have said, the feminine nouns in this lesson sometimes have a masculine article (el or un).

But for that to happen, the sentence needs to meet the following conditions:

  • The noun has to be in singular form
  • There can be no word between article and noun

Examples:

El agua está fresca.
The water is cool.

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 those conditions are not met, we revert to 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 are words between article and noun:

Ella bebe la fría agua del río.
She drinks the river’s cold water.

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

Adjectives connected with these nouns: always feminine

If there are adjectives in the sentence that are connected to these nouns, those adjectives are always in feminine form, even in the case where the article is masculine:

el águila es muy bonita.
the eagle is very beautiful.

un alma sincera
a sincere soul


This includes demonstrative adjectives, which are always feminine for this nouns, never masculine.

For example, it is “esta agua”, not “este agua”.

Practice

Exercise

The following sentences include nouns we have studied in this lesson.

Fill the gaps choosing between “el – la – los – las”:

Me gusta ___ (1) agua de esta fuente.
I like the water from this fountain.

___ (2) armas de este ejército son muy modernas.
The weapons of this army are very modern.

___ (3) arma de ese policía es una pistola.
That policeman’s weapon is a pistol.

___ (4) águila es un animal fascinante.
The eagle is a fascinating animal.

___ (5) inteligente águila busca una presa.
The clever eagle looks for prey.

___ (6) águilas son animales majestuosos.
Eagles are majestic animals.

___ (7) clara agua de este río inspira a muchos artistas.
The clear water of this river inspires many artists.

Solutions:
1) el
2) Las
3) El
4) El
5) La
6) Las
7) La