Spanish Feminine Nouns with Masculine Articles: “El agua”, “El hambre”…

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

Examples:

  • el arma = the weapon
  • un arma = a weapon
  • el águila = the eagle
  • un águila = an eagle

In this post, we will go through the following points:

1. List of feminine nouns that can use masculine articles

This happens only to feminine nouns starting with “a” or “ha”, and only when that “a” is the stressed vowel (the vowel that sounds “higher” in the word).

Here’s a list of the most frequent words:

SpanishEnglish
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 hablaspoken language
el hachaaxe
el hambrehunger

2. Conditions for using the masculine articles

For these feminine nouns to use the masculine articles, 2 conditions need to be met:

  1. The noun has to be singular.
  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 two conditions are not met, then we use 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 tocó la preciosa arpa.
She played the very beautiful harp.

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


Important: These nouns are feminine for everything else

Even in sentences where these words have a masculine article, all adjectives connected to them are always in feminine form.

Examples:

un águila muy bonita
a very beautiful eagle

el alma sincera
the sincere soul

3. Practice: An Exercise

Fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper, choosing between the articles el-la-los-las. After completing the exercise, check the solutions at the end of this post.

Me encanta ___ (1) agua fresca de esta fuente.
___ (2) armas de este ejército son muy modernas.
___ (3) arma que lleva el policía es una pistola.
___ (4) águila es un animal fascinante.
___ (5) inteligente águila busca una presa.
___ (6) águilas son animales hermosos.
___ (7) clara agua de este río inspira a muchos artistas.

Solutions to the Exercise: 1 = el, 2 = Las, 3 = El, 4 = El, 5 = La, 6 = Las, 7 = La