According to Translate.com, "the pan" is "el sartén".

According to Duolingo, the object suffers from gender confusion and can be either "el sartén" or "la sartén".

Why would it have two different genders, and why would such a basic word be a source of contention between two significant language sites?

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    There are other palabras ambiguas. Internet, even tilde can be one or the other. Nov 7, 2014 at 16:19
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    Aparentemente la sartén, una sarta de mentiras, y el sastre zurciendo alguna cosa comparten etimología.
    – enxaneta
    Jan 11, 2019 at 13:03

4 Answers 4


The RAE says:

sartén. (Del lat. sartāgo, -ĭnis). 1. f. Recipiente de cocina, generalmente de metal, de forma circular, poco hondo y con mango largo, que sirve para guisar. En muchos lugares de América y España, u. c. m.

u. c. m.: [usado como masculino]

It is indeed feminine, but even when the RAE prefers this it also accepts that is masculine in some other areas.

In México you'll hear el sartén but the TV always says things like Did you know that you should say la sartén instead of el sartén because the RAE says so?.

It is important if you say la o el but until you discover which is the best choice in the place you are staying, I think there's no going to be a problem.


It doesn't have 'two different genders', the DRAE states that its gender is feminine given that it comes from the latin sartago which was feminine as well; however, it also states that in different parts of America and Spain, it's known as masculine, mainly because many words that end in —én are masculine:

Andén, edén, almacén, etc.

If you're still doubting which one you should use, I'd advise you to go with la sartén. It doesn't really matter where you are, you'll be understood perfectly, people might be taken aback if they're used to el sartén but it shouldn't represent a big deal.


The difference is built in social use. In Chile we say "el sartén" and "la sartén" sounds weird but we understand and accept both uses, realizing that "la" is being used by a non-Chilean speaker.

No one wonders why "el monte" (mount) is masculine and "la montaña" (mountain) is feminine. In objects, gender is a historical consequence of use, not the execution of rules.

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    Maybe such words should be called "hermaphrodites" or some form of that. Nov 7, 2014 at 15:31
  • I think you mean "sustantivos ambiguos". I find it very odd and not really professional to call a word "hermaphrodite". However, I still believe that we should encourage the use of la sartén since it's in compliance with its roots. Nov 7, 2014 at 15:59
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    The word hermaphrodite was quoted by B. Clay Shannon. It is not problem with of professionalism. Is a metaphor.
    – Rodrigo
    Nov 7, 2014 at 16:15
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    No need to use an analogy to give a name to words that already have one, and even then, sartén isn't categorised as such. Nov 7, 2014 at 17:05

According to RAE sartén is feminine, so it is always la sartén and never "el sartén".

I can confirm you that none of these words have two genders. I have never heard "el sartén". I think that duolingo in this case is not to be trusted.

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    Diego, you should check out the clarification made by the RAE at the end of the first definition. Nov 7, 2014 at 15:05
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    books.google.com/ngrams/… Take a look. Though the usage of la sartén is way more common, el sartén is used as well. You can always look up books that contain the word el sartén and you'll find many of these are for food recipes. Nov 7, 2014 at 15:54
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    @Diego in the RAE, the last bit of the first definition says "u. c. m" "usado como masculino" Nov 7, 2014 at 16:18
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    @Diego as a native spanish speaker I can tell you that I use "El sartén" , I do have heard "La sartén" and I agree with Jerson and Rodrigo that EL/La,for this particular case, depends on the country
    – Newbie
    Nov 7, 2014 at 17:52
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    Tienes q tener en cuenta q el rae es muy lento actualizandose, y la gebte evoluciona mas rapido. Nov 8, 2014 at 14:14

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