why is 'la mano' not 'el mano'?

2
votes

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

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updated Jan 5, 2015
posted by Sonalisa
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4 Answers

3
votes

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."

updated Feb 11, 2014
edited by Izanoni1
posted by Izanoni1
I got lost at the first use of the word "declension", but it sounds good to me.
Hey, wait! Manus -> Manipulate! I made a connection! Probably an obvious one, but new to me. Thanks.
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)
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
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
I studied a bit of Latin when I was around 10 or 11 before moving on to French, but I never really kept up with it much. In fact one of the only phrases that I can remember from studying Latin all those years ago is "manus manum lavat" (one hand washes..
...the other).
2
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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.

updated Jan 5, 2015
posted by KevinB
great explanation
Yess! I'm norwegian, and I pity everyone that tries to learn the language. We have NOTHING in our nouns that indicates gender, noting what so ever, and we have 3 genders. So Spanish is suuuch an easy language to learn :D
0
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My Spanish teacher explained to us that the reason for "la" was that "la mano" sounded better than "el mano."

updated Sep 4, 2010
posted by Malenor
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.
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."
0
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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.

updated Aug 26, 2010
posted by Janice
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