Spanish/Formation of the feminine in nouns

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Natural gender nouns may belong to the following categories

  • Not inflected (de género común). One form is used for both genders, but the adjectives must agree with the natural gender. El artista chileno/la artista chilena; el testigo mentiroso/la testigo mentirosa.
  • Inflected. The feminine is formed from the masculine, normally adding a or replacing the last vowel by a: el niño/la niña.
  • Both inflected and non inflected: el presidente/la presidente/la presidenta. Some people have strong views as to whether the inflected or the not inflected form is sexist.

Regular inflection of the feminine.

If a word ends in a vowel, the feminine replaces that vowel by a: el cliente, la clienta. If a word ends in a consonant, the feminine adds an a: el profesor, la profesora.

When nouns are inflected

Nouns are inflected or not depending on the ending of the masculine-gender form.

  • o: inflected. El niño/la niña. Exceptions: el/la testigo, el ingeniero/la ingeniero/la ingeniera.
  • a: not inflected. El/la artista. El modisto is very anomalous. Probably the first male dressmakers invented that word so they wouldn't be confused with women. On the other hand, a male cheerleader is un porrista, not un *porristo. Another exception is el poeta/la poeta/la poetisa. Feminists prefer la poeta but la poetisa is very common.
  • e (except ante, ente): not inflected. El detective/la detective. There are many exceptions: el alcalde/la alcaldesa, el cliente/la cliente/la clienta.
  • ante: not inflected. El/la ayudante. However words in this category may have an old inflected form, which is not used anymore: la ayudanta, la estudianta.
  • ente. Prescriptive grammarians say that this words should not be inflected: el/la adolescente. However, there are many exceptions included in dictionaries: el presidente/la presidente/la presidenta, el gerente/la gerente/la gerenta.
  • Stressed vowel: not inflected. El/la gurú.
  • Consonant: inflected. El profesor/la profesora, el bailarín/la bailarina. Exceptions: el concejal/la concejal/la concejala, el juez/la juez/la jueza, el/la joven.