Spanish feminine nouns with masculine articles

Is agua masculine or feminine in Spanish

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 the nouns that have this quality, and how to use them properly. We will provide many 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 characteristics (both of them):

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


Here’s a list of the most frequent of these nouns:

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 articles “el” and “un”?

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

But for that, the sentence needs to meet the following 2 conditions:

  • The feminine 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 2 conditions are not met, we revert to feminine articles

For example, if the feminine noun is plural:

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

Son unas arpas bonitas.
They are beautiful harps.


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 are always feminine

Adjectives connected with these nouns are always in feminine form, even in the case where the noun is preceded by el or un.

El águila es muy bonita.
The eagle is very beautiful.

Ella tiene un alma sincera
She has a sincere soul.


Also, demonstrative adjectives and possessive adjectives are always feminine for these nouns, never masculine.

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

And it is “nuestra agua”, not “nuestro agua”.

Practice

Exercise

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

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

1) Me gusta ___ 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 cop’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

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