El agua, las aguas.

Las aguas. By anastasia-taioglou-


El agua, las aguas.

Many students (and natives) wonder why we say el agua (water), but in plural we say las aguas (waters).

Agua is a feminine noun, and yet, we say el agua, so most people think we should say la agua instead.

Most feminine nouns beginning with a stressed a sound (including ha) take the masculine article. This avoids el-agua sounding like la-agua. The sound of la-agua is considered uneducated. In the plural, the s of las or unas breaks the cacophony (harsh or discordant sound of words or phrases. Cacofonía. Disonancia.)

Here is a list I compiled myself containing most nouns that follow this rule. Many of these words are not commonly used, they are outdated. Again, regardless of the el article, all these nouns are feminine:

el acta las actas document, report, certificate
el afta las aftas blister, cold sore
el ágata las ágatas agate (gem)
el agua las aguas water, waters, currents
el águila las águilas eagle
el ala las alas wing
el alba las albas dawn, rare in plural
el alca las alcas an arctic species of bird
el alga las algas seaweed
el álgebra las álgebras algebra. rare in plural.
el alma las almas soul
el alta las altas to be released from hospital, enrollment, registration
el alza las alzas rise, increase, used in finance.
el ama las amas mistress. El ama de casa.  housewife. El ama de llaves, housekeeper.
el anca las ancas rear legs of some animals
el ancla las anclas anchor
el ánfora las ánforas amphora
el ánima las ánimas soul
el ansa las ansas alternate old spelling of “asa”
el ansia las ansias anxiety, longing
el anta las antas some architectural decoration, tapir
el ara las aras altar, honor
el arca las arcas chest, safe, ark
el arda las ardas old word for “ardilla”, squirrel.
el área las áreas area
el arma las armas arm, weapon
el árnica las árnicas arnica (plant)
el arpa las arpas harp
el asa las asas bag, mug, drawer handle.
el ascua las ascuas ember
el asma las asmas asthma, rare in plural
el aspa las aspas blender blades, propellers, mill arm
el asta las astas pole, mast, horn
el aula las aulas classroom
el ave las aves birds, as opposed to mammals, reptiles, etc.
el haba las habas broad bean
el habla las hablas speech. Rare in plural.
el hacha las hachas axe, hatchet
el hada las hadas fairy. Used in literature, fairytales, etc.
el halda las haldas some kind of packaging fabric
el hambre las hambres hunger, rare in plural. We say tengo mucha hambre. I’m very hungry (Lit: I have a lot of hunger)
el hampa las hampas underworld, crime, rare in plural
el harca las harcas some military term used in Spain
el harda las hardas alternate spelling of “farda”, a sac. Also, old form for arda and ardilla (squirrel).
el harpa las harpas alternate spelling of arpa.

La arte, el arte, los
artes, las artes (art; both genders)
Letters are feminine for the most part
La A, las As (the Spanish name of the
letter “a”, las aes, is the plural form according to the RAE))
La alfa, las alfas (the Greek letter alpha)
La hache, las haches (the Spanish name of the
letter “h”)
El álef, La álef, Los álefs, las álefs (both genders. Hebrew’s aleph)
Various nouns, some coming from
adjectives, describing female people or animals
La árabe, las árabes (a female Arab
La árbitra, las árbitras (a female referee)
La aria, las arias (feminine for Aryan)
La asna, las asnas (female donkey. Some scholars prefer “El asno
hembra” (female donkey), but it’s way too formal)
La ánade, las ánades (female variety of duck)
La áspid (female asp)

Notice that compounds do not
necessarily follow the rule because the stress falls on a different
El aguardiente,
a aguamala

As of yet, not many scholars
agree on what to do in cases like these; I would go for the feminine
El hábil hada or La hábil hada.
Un ágil águila or Una ágil águila
When the noun is inflected, the stress moves to a different syllable so the masculine article is
no longer necessary:
La agüita,
la anclota, la alita, la aguilota

In this table, I used the definite article, but you can use the
indefinite article as well, i.e. un, unas.

Las aguas del mar.

Originally published on 20060205. Updated on 20101002. Latest update 20210311 (spanishNY.com) top

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