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

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