Some nouns have both genders without a change of meaning

Some nouns can have both genders (masculine and feminine) without a change of meaning according to different circumstances (geographical, register of the language, etc.). Whether to use the masculine or feminine form is decided by the speaker.

Have a look and listen to these examples:

1. Necesito una sartén limpia para cocinar.  2. Necesito un sartén limpio para cocinar. 
I need a pan in order to cook.

1. El mar era azul.  2. La mar era azul. 
The sea was blue.

1. No quiero que tomes tanto azúcar. 2. No quiero que tomes tanta azúcar. 
I don´t want you to eat so much sugar.

1. Hacía demasiado calor en la playa.  2. Hacía demasiada calor en la playa. 
It was too hot at the beach.

1. Nunca pongo bien las tildes.  2. Nunca pongo bien los tildes.
I never put accents correctly.

"Tilde" is feminine more often than masculine.

"Mar" is more poetic when it's feminine. Its more general when it's masculine.

"Azúcar" is more commonly feminine in southern Spain and some Latin American countries.

"Calor" is more commonly feminine in southern Spain and some Latin American countries.

"Sartén" is feminine more often than masculine.

As a non-native speaker, the only way to know if a noun has two genders is to check with a dictionary.

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

1. Necesito una sartén limpia para cocinar.  2. Necesito un sartén limpio para cocinar. 
I need a pan in order to cook.


1. No quiero que tomes tanto azúcar. 2. No quiero que tomes tanta azúcar. 
I don´t want you to eat so much sugar.


1. El mar era azul.  2. La mar era azul. 
The sea was blue.


1. Nunca pongo bien las tildes.  2. Nunca pongo bien los tildes.
I never put accents correctly.


1. Hacía demasiado calor en la playa.  2. Hacía demasiada calor en la playa. 
It was too hot at the beach.


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