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My Spanish teacher taught me the word NORSEL, meaning that if a word ends with any of those sounds, it is highly likely that it is a masculine noun.
Words that end with any other letters, especially a are most likely feminine.
Some exceptions to this are:
a. Words that end in -ción / -sión are almost always feminine, even though they end with the 'n' sound.
b. Many words that end in -ma are actually masculine even though they end in 'a' (el problema, el clima, el tema).
c. And some words are just completely random, like the word el mapa or la mano.
The rules above work maybe 90% of the time, more or less since there are always some exceptions to this rule :)
Why is "el" before water and bread in a previous example but "la" before manzana?
Why does it say el in water and la in milk??? Both el and la means "the" right?
It told me... oh, i see. Manzana is wrong because it's a feminine word, and el is for masculine ones. Cool.