Some nouns can have both genders (masculine and feminine) without a change of meaning according to different circumstances (e.g. 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 more often feminine than masculine, but both genders are correct.
- "Mar" is more poetic when it's feminine and more general when it's masculine. Although it's also used in the feminine form by people who live on the sea, like fishermen and sailors.
- "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 more often feminine than masculine, but both genders are correct.
As a non-native speaker, the only way to know if a noun has two genders is to check with the dictionary.
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