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Most of my mistakes are gender mistakes


So I know the difference between a man and a woman, before anybody asks or makes a joke.. :)

However I have huge problems knowing the exact gender of a word when translating from English to Spanish. I keep using the wrong gender and I think more than half of the mistakes I make are related to this.

The reason I make this post is mixed: - does anybody have any tips for me? - if I'm not the only one, maybe DL can come up with a smart way of dealing with these mistakes, like creating special lessons focused on word genders where all of my "problem words" get collected and trained (instead of being the only wrong word in that complex sentence I'm proud I just translated correctly -- apart from that one word)

Also a quick question for the DL staff: if I make a gender mistake in that complex sentence, does DL think I don't know how to translat the entire sentence, or does it know it's just a gender issue with one word in it? (this may be important because DL's understanding of the mistakes I make may become much less accurate if it registers the entire sentence as being wrong)

Thanks for your replies! Ruud

August 29, 2013



Unfortunately 'm afraid that gender is part of the word, in the meaning that as you learn that cat is gato, the fact that gato is masc. (well I took an obvious example, but still) is part of the learning of the word. And as gender of each word is specific to each language (when they have gender), there is no so much other way than to learn new words WITH their article (fem./masc.).

But there is some (almost without exception) rules that you can remember:

  • -o/-a, well may be not the best example
  • -ción : feminine, la elección
  • -dad : feminine, la ciudad
  • -umbre : feminine, la servidumbre.


You're not completely correct for your example gato/gata as far as I know: la gata can also be feminine, if you know it is a female cat (or else it will default to masculine). Just like niño/niña.

Also I understand it's part of learning a word, but I can make do on the streets if I know the word but don't know the gender so it's still frustrating when I know a word but put an incorrect gender ;)

One of my problems is that I forget if the word ends in -o or in -a, by the way, when translating from English to Spanish. :x


For gato I wasn't saying that the feminine version doesn't exists. As I said it was an obvious one, but my point was that it's el gato and not la gato, and to know that it's el and not la is part of the learning process (even if, as I said, here you have other tips to be almost sure about it : the -o/-a thing)


Yeah, but in the case of gato/gata DL counts both right every time ;)

By the way: the problem isn't just remembering el/la, but it's also remembering the last letter of the word; so I don't really remember if it's el gato/la gata (same bad example, but you know what I mean).


I think it will be easier to go 'outside' Duo and learn some things on your own rather than hope Duo accommodates you. ;) Do some Google work and you'll find several sites that explain the issue and will teach/quiz you on it. Take a look at the topic on www.studyspanish.com (you may need to cut and paste the link) Some folks fall into the 'inductive learning only' camp, but I think there are a few things that will help you , like -cion words are feminine, etc.


Here are some tips regarding gender and Spanish that I think will help you get the hang of this. Generally speaking, if the noun ends in o (singular) or os (plural) then the article will be lo or los. For feminine nouns, you would look for a (singular) or as (plural) at the end of the noun, and the article would be la or las depending on whether it's a singular or plural noun. That's the basic explanation, but there are exceptions, and that's where all of this gets tricky. Some examples would be el mapa (the map) or el día (the day). As you can see, these two examples do not follow the rules I described. For these words, you'd really need to memorize and learn them as you see them.

We do currently gather your problem words and grammar points and make sure that you practice them in lesson practice. We'll be evolving how that works though too.


"..if the noun ends in o (singular) or os (plural) then the article will be lo or los."

*el or los. I'm sure it's just a typo but still.. :)


So if there were a long complex (at least for me) sentence and the only mistake I made was la mapa instead of el mapa, DL will know that this word is in fact the problem, instead of marking the entire sentence as a problem?

I'd like to see a feature where I can look up my problem words and just look them over every once in a while. Might work for me :)

Also, why don't you add more tips (like jrikhall's) to the DL lessons? This would lower the need to look at other websites when learning Spanish and it would make DL more of a complete/all-in language learning experience.


I'm not exactly sure how it works in spanish, but I can speak portuguese( which is derived from spanish), and English fluently. I'm currently learning French, so I'd say the general idea is that for Romance(latin-based) languages you can borrow/ use the same gender you give the object in portuguese (and spanish too I think), and french.

E.g.: The cow (English) Feminine la vache ( French) Feminine la vaca (Spanish) Feminine a vaca (Portuguese) Feminine

The bull (English) Masculine le boeuf ( French) Masculine el buey (Spanish) Masculine o boi (Portuguese) Masculine

Although that's not always the case. The only other way is to follow the advice of the other posters, and/or memorise them.


Can't offer you any better tips than the ones already mentioned, but I can tell you that I probably dislike this gender confusion even more than you, and yet enough repetition eventually drills it into your head. Or in short, you just get so annoyed by losing points that you eventually suck it up and start to pay attention.

It's getting over the psychological barrier that English does fine without it that is hard, not the actual memorisation itself, which slowly happens whether you are conscious of it or not.

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