why is 'la mano' not 'el mano'? | SpanishDict Answers
Do you #LoveSpanish? Share why for a chance to win $15,000 in scholarships from SpanishDict. Learn more!
report this ad
2 Vote

'mano' ended with an 'o', why is 'la mano' not 'el mano'?

  • Posted Aug 25, 2010
  • | 25883 views
  • | link
  • | flag

4 Answers

3 Vote

My Spanish teacher explained to us that the reason for "la" was that "la mano" sounded better than "el mano."

Interesting theory....I am more inclined to believe (and this is merely conjecture on my part) that it has something to do with the fact of the word being passed down from Latin. In Latin, the word "manus" (from which the word mano is derived) was a fourth declension feminine noun.

The predominant letter in the ending of fourth declension nouns was (-u-). Compare this with the first declension (typically feminine nouns) and second declension (typically masculine or neuter) nouns whose predominant endings were (-a) and (-o-), respectively.

It seems that this -o/-a tradition for masculine/feminine nouns may have been passed down from the original Latin first and second declensions. Additionally, the fourth declension nouns were a group of nouns which were mostly masculine with a few feminine exceptions (manus being one of them), and it is not unlikely, then, that this is where the exception originated for the word "mano."

  • I got lost at the first use of the word "declension", but it sounds good to me. - KevinB Aug 25, 2010 flag
  • Hey, wait! Manus -> Manipulate! I made a connection! Probably an obvious one, but new to me. Thanks. - KevinB Aug 25, 2010 flag
  • Declension just refers to the inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, etc to indicate number (singular vs. plural), gender (masculine vs feminine) and case (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, etc) - Izanoni1 Aug 25, 2010 flag
  • In comparison to English, Latin is a very highly inflected language. When dealing with a noun in Latin you have to know the forms of each declension in order to tell whether the noun acts as the subject, recipient (Indirect Object), direct object , etc - Izanoni1 Aug 25, 2010 flag
  • I've always wanted to work up the gumption to study Latin, since I love Romance languages and have studied a couple or three. But, in the end, I'd really rather study another language that I can talk to someone with - KevinB Aug 25, 2010 flag
2 Vote

Welcome to the forum. I understand your confusion. In general, most nouns that end with "O" are masculine, so the article is el. But not all of them. Mano just happens to be an exception. It is feminine, despite the "O" ending, so the article is la. It's just one of those things. Fortunately, there aren't very many of "those things" in Spanish.

0 Vote

My Spanish teacher explained to us that the reason for "la" was that "la mano" sounded better than "el mano."

  • That's why we use el with agua even though it is feminine (and other feminine singular nouns that start with a stressed "A" sound), but I'd never heard that about using la with mano, which really is feminine. - KevinB Aug 25, 2010 flag
  • It's better to at least give the teacher's answer than to say, "it's the convention," as is the case here, like using an x and a y in algebra. There is no deeper "reason." - Malenor Sep 4, 2010 flag
0 Vote

Izanoni1 offered a very interesting response which included this sentence (I added the emphasis):

Additionally, the fourth declension nouns were a group of nouns which were mostly masculine with a few feminine exceptions (manus being one of them)

Sonalisa phrased the question this way:

'mano' ended with an 'o', why is 'la mano' not 'el mano'?

So we cannot be sure whether Sonalisa meant to be asking why one uses "la" with "mano" -- in which case KevinB's answer is quite sufficient: "mano" is feminine". Or is Sonalisa really more interested in knowing "why" mano is a feminine noun - given that it ends in "o" (in which case, KevinB's answer is also good! .."one of those things" smile

Now Izanoni1 has offered an explanation as to "which" of "those things"!

We are unfortunately left with the question now as to why "manus" was one of the exceptions in that fourth declension and feminine in Latin for the Romans:-(

Maybe we can post that question in a Latin or Historical Linguistics forum! Sonalisa has made me curious.

Answer this Question
report this ad