Spanish nouns (III) – Exceptions!

As nearly always with learning grammar there are exceptions to the general rules. With nouns in Spanish try to remember the following changes:

Nouns that end in –o that are feminine:

There are words that appear to be masculine from their -o ending but they are feminine.
Often these words have been shortened:

la radio [is orginially from “la radiografía”] (radio)
la foto [la fotografía] (photograph)
la moto [la motocicleta] (motorbike)

The nouns below appear to be masculine but they are feminine:

la modelo (model)
la mano (hand)

Therefore, when using adjectives with these nouns you must remember to make them feminine too:

Un coche de segunda mano (a second-hand car)
No es una buena foto. (It isn’t a good photo)

Nouns that end in –a but are masculine:
There is a group of nouns that end in –ma which are masculine:

clima (climate/weather)
el pyjama (pyjamas)
el problema (problem)
el sistema (system)
el tema (theme/topic)

Other words that end in –a but are masculine include the following:

el mapa
el planeta

Nouns describing a male person:

el atleta (athlete)
el guía (guide)
el policía (policeman)

Nouns ending in “–ista” are normally masculine unless referring to a female:

el periodista (male journalist)la periodista (female journalist)
el turista (male tourist)la turista (female tourist)
el dentista (male dentist)la dentista (female dentist)
el futbolista (footballer)la futbolista (female footballer)

Particularly interesting is where certain words can be masculine or feminine, but they change meaning:

el capital (capital/money) > la capital (capital city)
el orden (order/tidiness) > la orden (order/command)
el disco (disc/record) > la disco (the disco)
el manzanilla (type of fortified wine) > la manzanilla (camomile tea)
el cometa (comet) > la cometa (kite)


Some nouns have recently introduced a feminine form whereas before they only had a masculine form:

la jefa (boss) [from el jefe]
la dependienta (shop assistant) [from el dependiente]
la presidenta (president) [ from el presidente]
la estudianta (student) [from el estudiante]

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