Stressed A

Spanish stressed A
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A tónica

There’s an interesting phenomenon in Spanish to do with feminine nouns that begin with a stressed A sound (which may be written a, á, or or ha). When these nouns are singular and preceded directly by a definite article,* the masculine article is used instead of the feminine article you would expect.

Feminine words that begin with stressed A:

el acta   act, record
el ágata   agate
el agua   water
el águila   eagle
el ala   wing
el alba   dawn
el alga   seaweed
el álgebra   algebra
el alma   woman, soul
el alza   raise
el ama   housewife
el anca   haunch
el ancla   anchor
el ánfora   amphora
el ánima   anima, soul
el ansia   yearning
el arca   chest, box
el área   area
el arma   weapon
el arpa   harp
el arte   art
el asa   handle
el asma   asthma
el aspa   fan blade, cross
el asta   flagpole
el aula   classroom
el aura   aura
el ave   bird
el haba   fava bean
el habla   speech
el hacha   axe
el hada   fairy
el hambre   hunger

 Notes

* When dealing with an indefinite article, Spanish speakers will more use the masculine form in front of these words, but the feminine article is also correct.

1. Despite the masculine article, these nouns are feminine, which means that everything but the singular definite article must agree with them, including:

Por ejemplo…

¿Dónde están las aves?   Where are the birds?
Tengo el arca muy bonita.   I have the very pretty box.
No me gusta esta aula.   I don’t like this classroom.

2. When there is an adjective between the article and noun, the article is feminine:

Es la última arma.   It’s the last weapon.
¿Es una buena hada?   Is it a good fairy?

3. The addition of a diminutive changes the word stress and the new word is able to take the feminine article:

la aguililla   little eagle
la hachita   hatchet

More examples with sound files

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A tónica - Spanish