Vocabulary

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Lesson Transcript

Michael: How can a word be masculine or feminine?
Ainoha: And how can you tell its gender?
Michael: At SpanishPod101.com, we hear these questions often. In the following situation, a language learner is out buying groceries. Sasha Lee, a high school student, is at a farmer’s market with her friend. She says to the clerk,
"An apple and a fig, please."
Sasha Lee: Una manzana y un higo, por favor.
Michael: Listen to her request and the way her friend responds.
Sasha Lee: Una manzana y un higo, por favor.
Tania Torres: ¿Solo una manzana y un higo?
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Sasha Lee: Una manzana y un higo, por favor.
Michael: "An apple and a fig, please."
Tania Torres: ¿Solo una manzana y un higo?
Michael: "Only one apple and one fig?"
Michael: Have you noticed that the nouns,
Ainoha: manzana
Michael: and 
Ainoha: higo
Michael: are preceded by different versions of the article,
Ainoha: Un?
Michael: This is because in Spanish, every noun has a gender. Other Romance languages have masculine and feminine nouns, too. It’s a trait that comes from Latin. In fact, it's common among many languages in the Indo-European language family. But gender here doesn’t mean that a word is somehow male or female. People don’t think of certain objects as being somehow like a man or somehow like a woman. And in most cases, the gender of a Spanish word is based on the gender that was assigned to it in Latin.
Michael: Let’s take a closer look at both responses.
Do you remember how Sasha says,
"An apple and a fig, please."
[Pause 4 seconds]
Sasha Lee: Una manzana y un higo, por favor.
Michael: Here, the noun, manzana, which is feminine, is preceded by the article, una, which is also in the feminine form. Because the article, una, is modifying manzana, it must have the same form. In such cases, we can say that adjectives and articles agree with nouns in terms of gender. But, how do we know the gender of a noun? The easiest way to tell the gender of a noun is by looking at the noun's final letter. 
The general rule is that if a noun ends with an "a," it's feminine. For example, 
Ainoha: luna
Michael: means "moon" and 
Ainoha: esposa
Michael: means "wife." These both end in a and are fairly easy to identify as feminine nouns.
On the other hand, there are lots of exceptions. For example, 
Ainoha: planeta
Michael: meaning "planet." This word is masculine even though it ends with an "a." Because there are so many exceptions to the general pattern, it's best to learn nouns and their definite articles together. In the case of planeta, you should learn it, along with its article, el, as 
Ainoha: el planeta.
Michael: Now let’s take a look at masculine noun endings.
Do you remember how Sasha’s friend says,
"Only one apple and one fig?"
[pause 4 seconds]
Ainhoa as Tania Torres: ¿Solo una manzana y un higo?
Michael: The word,
Ainoha: higo,
Michael: is masculine, and the giveaway is that it ends in "o." Likewise,
Ainoha: esposo,
Michael: meaning "husband," ends in this letter. Common masculine nouns ending in "o" include the word "world,"
Ainoha: mundo
Michael: and "eye," 
Ainoha: ojo.
Michael: So far we've learned that the endings, "a," for feminine nouns, and "o," for masculine nouns, serve as a fairly reliable way to determine the gender of a noun in Spanish.
Michael: There are other endings that indicate feminine nouns, too. In particular, 
Ainoha: -sión
Michael: or
Ainoha: -ción.
Michael: As in,
Ainoha: la información and la decisión,
Michael: which mean "the information" and "the decision," respectively, or the endings,
Ainoha:  -dad 
Michael: or 
Ainoha: -tad 
Michael: or
Ainoha: -tud
Michael: As in,
Ainoha: la universidad,
Michael: meaning "the university." Finally, the noun ending
Ainoha: -umbre,
Michael: in
Ainoha: la muchedumbre,
Michael: means "the crowd." Similarly, there are common endings of masculine nouns. For example,
Ainoha: -ma, 
Michael: as in the noun,
Ainoha: el problema
Michael: meaning "the problem." 
Michael: Let's review. Respond to the prompts by speaking aloud. Then repeat after the Spanish speaker, focusing on pronunciation. 
Do you remember how Sasha says,
"An apple and a fig, please."
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Ainoha as Sasha Lee: Una manzana y un higo, por favor.
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
Ainoha as Sasha Lee: Una manzana y un higo, por favor.
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Una manzana y un higo, por favor.
Michael: And how her friend says,
"Only one apple and one fig?"
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Ainoha as Tania Torres: ¿Solo una manzana y un higo?
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
Ainoha as Tania Torres: ¿Solo una manzana y un higo?
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
¿Solo una manzana y un higo?
Michael: Some nouns also might have a different gender than their article depending on what they are referring to. Job titles often reveal a person’s gender. For example, a male professor is called,
Ainoha: el profesor,
Michael: or "the male professor," while "the female professor" will be referred to as
Ainoha: la profesora.
Michael: However, this distinction is sometimes expressed not by the noun ending, but by the preceding article instead. An example of such a profession is a pianist, who will be called 
Ainoha: el pianista
Michael: when referring to a male pianist, but 
Ainoha: la pianista
Michael: when referring to a female pianist.
Michael: Great job. Now you know how to use gender in Spanish. That’s all there is to it!
Be sure to download the lesson notes for this lesson at SpanishPod101.com — and move onto the next lesson!

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