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

Welcome to our grammar lesson about Feminine Nouns in Spanish that can work with Masculine Articles.

In Spanish, all nouns have gender: they are either masculine or feminine. As one would expect, all masculine nouns work with masculine articles. And most feminine nouns work with feminine articles.

However, there are some nouns which, despite being feminine, sometimes work with masculine articles “el” and “un”.

Here are some examples: the nouns “arma” and “águila” are feminine, but look at the articles:

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

In this lesson, we will give you a list of the most frequent feminine nouns affected by this phenomenon, and we will explain how to use them in sentences. At the end you’ll find an exercise for practice.

Feminine nouns that use masculine articles (sometimes)

This phenomenon happens only to feminine nouns beginning with “a” or “ha”, and only when that first “a” is the stressed vowel (the vowel that sounds the strongest when saying the noun).

With that in mind, here’s a list of the most important Spanish feminine nouns that sometimes use masculine articles “él” and “un”:

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 hablaspoken language
el hachaaxe
el hambrehunger

However, notice that these nouns use masculine articles sometimes, not always. 2 conditions need to be met, and that’s what we will study next.

Conditions for using masculine articles “el” and “un” with these feminine nouns

Here are the 2 conditions:

  1. The noun has to be in singular form.
  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 are not met, then 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 tocó la preciosa arpa.
She played the very beautiful harp.

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

Adjectives connected to these nouns are always feminine

All adjectives in a sentence connected to these nouns in are still in feminine form, even when they are using masculine articles:

Examples:

Un águila muy bonita
a very beautiful eagle

El alma sincera
the sincere soul

Practice feminine nouns with masculine articles

Exercise

In this exercise, we will read sentences including some of the words we have studied in this lesson.

Fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper, choosing between articles “el-la-los-las”. After completing the exercise, check the solutions below.

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

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