Grammar rules make learning a second language easier, but there are exceptions to the rules. In Romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian) names have a gender. As in English, they are preceded by an article that has to match the name’s gender.

There are no rules as to what is feminine or masculine. Particularly in Spanish, feminine names usually end in “a”. Therefore, “table” is feminine since it translates into “mesa”.

Additionally, feminine names take the feminine definite or indefinite articles “the” or “a/an”; in this case: “la mesa” or “una mesa”. However, many words that in English end in “em” such as “problem” and in Spanish end in “ema” such as “problema” are part of the exception to this rule.

These words are masculine in Spanish even though they end in “a” and take the masculine definite or indefinite articles ; i.e. “el problema”, “un problema”. Can you find other exceptions to the rule? “el sistema”, “un sistema”, “el teorema”, “un teorema”, “el dilemma”, “un dilemma”, “el fonema”, “un fonema”…

By Andreina Ojeda, M.A. Modern Languages and M.A. International Studies.
President and Founder of Lingua Language Center at Broward College.

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