Stressed A

A tónica

There’s an interesting phenomenon in Spanish regarding feminine nouns that begin with a stressed A sound (which can be written either a 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 might expect.

Some common feminine stressed A words:

el acta   act, record
el agua   water
el águila   eagle
el ala   wing
el alba   dawn
el alga   seaweed
el alma   woman, soul
el arca   chest, box
el arma   weapon
el aspa   cross
el aula   classroom
el ave   bird
el hacha   axe
el hada   fairy
el hambre   hunger

Notes

* When dealing with an indefinite article, Spanish speakers will often use the masculine form in front of these words, but this is considered incorrect. It’s only with the definite article that you should use the masculine form.

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

Quiero ver el agua azul.   I want to see the blue water.
¿Dónde están las aves?   Where are the birds?
Tengo un arca muy bonita.   I have a 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?

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