I am not a native Spanish speaker, but I tend to read a spanish (mexican) newspaper to practise my Spanish language skills. However, I was reading this article about teachers in which I read the following statement.

El titular de la Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP), Aurelio Nuño Mayer, subrayó que en la evaluación de desempeño se han presentado 132 mil maestros y lo que sigue es capacitación a los docentes como parte de un proceso en el que aseguró ningún maestro perderá su trabajo.

I am assuming that "maestro" is actually used in a gender-neutral way here because they are talking about a group of people, and the male gender of the word might also be used as the 'gender-neutral' way. In my mother tongue we tend to express ourselves in a gender-neutral way whenever applicable, and it coincides often with the 'male' way of saying the word.

Is there a Spanish gender-neutral way to phrase such a sentence? Or is it perfectly acceptable to use 'maestro' when clearly speaking about maestro/maestra. (Assuming that it is not actually a sexist statement, and he only considers male teachers here)

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    In heavily gendered languages like Spanish and German you can't avoid "gender-bias" in many cases because to change the gender of a word will often change its meaning.
    – zxq9
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 0:25
  • Usually in plural forms where both males and females exist in the group you'll just use the male form of the word. It's a kind of inevitable, sadly, due to how the language has evolved to its current state. There is actually a way of using @ as a stand-in but that's not really considered formal at least for now.
    – xji
    Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 17:06

4 Answers 4


Yes, you are right. Spanish tends to use masculine for "gender neutral" (when a group has individuals of both genders you use masculine. You only use feminine if all members were feminine).

Sometimes you may see other ways of trying to express gender "neutrality", but as we can learn from the Real Academia de la Lengua

Los ciudadanos y las ciudadanas, los niños y las niñas

Este tipo de desdoblamientos son artificiosos e innecesarios desde el punto de vista lingüístico. En los sustantivos que designan seres animados existe la posibilidad del uso genérico del masculino para designar la clase, es decir, a todos los individuos de la especie, sin distinción de sexos: Todos los ciudadanos mayores de edad tienen derecho a voto.

Source: "Real Academia de la Lengua

You actually only use both genders in the sentence if it is relevant in order to remark the gender distinction like "los niños y las niñas tienen las mismas oportunidades".

There are others who try to use the "@" sign (los niñ@s) in some informal context, but "@" is not actually a letter (and sometimes could not even work well, since other words in the sentence may depend on the gender of that one for concordance).

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    Is using "@" more common among the younger generation? Or has there always been a small group of folks who use it? I've never seen it before and it's kind of clever.
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 17:50
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    @BruceWayne it is rather clever indeed, I would suspect it came with the internet-generation, thus people who are now around 20 or younger. But I could be mistaken in that. (Reminds me of how people in French and Possible spanish have their 'chat language' in the sense of "Qu = K", such that "Qui = Ki). It might just be another way to save characters :P los niños y niñas requires too many keystrokes! Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 18:09
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    It's worth noting that those "desdoblamientos artificiosos" are very commonly used by left wing politicians. There's nothing wrong with that but Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela, takes it too far: "Vamos a regalar millones y millonas de libros y libras a los niños y niñas." People appreciate gender equality, numbers and books don't! Also there is no such word as "millonas", and "libras" means something different to "libros". My girlfriend hadn't heard this quote before I told her about it. She found it hilarious. Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 20:39
  • @steveverrill That quote is really funny. :)) I haven't heard it before either.
    – Giuseppe
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 23:45
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    @BruceWayne The @ use comes from chat platforms (messenger, facebook, whatsup...) where one would need to include both genders in a group of friends. A "this is for you boys" + "this is for you girls" kind of comment.
    – Giuseppe
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 23:48

Diego's answer is very good.

In most cases, it's possible to use an epicene noun to stand in for the person (such as persona, miembro, etc, that are always one gender) and then include a collective term for the group. In your example, you could use:

… aseguró que ningún miembro del profesorado perderá su trabajo …

  • Thank for you for this suggestion. As I am keen on avoiding gender-bias in my writing, I will try to keep this example in mind! (Though I hardly write anything formal in Spanish) ^^ Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 18:10
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    @DylanMeeus it's not something you can do all the time because not everything has a collective noun (at least, not without a wordy substitute: «ninguna persona que sea profesora»), but it does work if you feel there could be confusion and don't want to duplicate. But as Diego said, the norm is just to use the masculine singular, it doesn't come off as sexist as in English. In official documents, you'll often see "profesor/a" or "profesor(a)" or even "profesor/a/s" but in those cases, generally, the idea is either/or based on context, rather than both/all together. Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 18:53

Consider the following phrasing:

El titular de la Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP), Aurelio Nuño Mayer, subrayó que en la evaluación de desempeño se han presentado 132 mil docentes y lo que sigue es su capacitación como parte de un proceso en el que aseguró, nadie perderá su trabajo.

The information presented is mostly the same with some less redundancy. The only obvious flaw I could see in doing this is that on saying "nadie perderá su trabajo" you are being less directly specific as to whom is not going to lose their job, but this information is obvious from the context so I'd consider this to be an accurate gender-neutralization of the sentence. All of it without recurring to any complex vocabulary, doubling gendered nouns or using strange non-alphabetic characters in your sentence.

I feel Diego's answer relies on your particular phrasing of the question as well as a bit of a Straw Man's fallacy to promptly dismiss your quest for gender neutrality. This is why I have taken the liberty of answering the first part of your question only while ignoring the second part. I believe my answer could be useful to anyone who doesn't care about the original text being acceptable in normative Spanish and wanting to know if an alternative gender-neutral phrasing could be possible, also in normative Spanish.

Furthermore, I'd like to urge you to disregard any future subtle or not so subtle implication that gender-neutrality is not possible in Spanish. People saying this actually mean that it's less comfortable for them to think of a gender-neutral way of saying things and so they prefer to rely on the default generic masculine nouns, or they don't know enough Spanish to do so, or maybe they have some political agenda about it.

For more information on avoiding gender bias in Spanish as well as the underlying controversy, you can read Juan Moreno Cabrera's excellent article "Acerca de la discriminación de la mujer y de los lingüistas en la sociedad" about RAE's report on "Sexismo, lingüismo y visibilidad de la mujer".

Edit: I had somehow missed TeachingTom's answer but his phrasing is more polished than mine and an excellent example of gender-neutral use of Spanish.

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    Mucho se ha debatido y mucho se debatirá sobre si hay que retorcer el lenguaje para que no sea sexista. Pero de todos modos, me parece mezclar lo políticamente correcto con la lingüística el intentar olvidar que el masculino también incluye el femenino en muchos casos. Buscar circunloquios para no mencionar una palabra con género me parece un ejercicio que pertenece más a la gimnasia que al uso tranquilo de la lengua.
    – fedorqui
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 19:35
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    No one said (nor implied) that gender-neutrality isn't possible. The question is what is most natural. No one will ever say "Voy a salir con las personas con las cuales he trabado una amistad", though that does make things gender neutral without complex vocabulary, doubling gendered nouns, or using strange non-alphabetic characters. They will just say "Voy a salir con mis amigos" (using amigas if all girls, and clarifying, if necessary, whether the group is all boys or boys and girls, as it is ambiguous, not sexist). Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 19:49
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    @fedorqui Solo es gimnasia para quien no acostumbra a hacerlo. Y lo que se busca no es olvidar, si no cambiar un determinado aspecto del uso del lenguaje para desfavorecer determinadas formas de concebir el mundo que nos rodea. Se puede estar más o menos de acuerdo pero dificilmente se puede justificar el intervencionismo de la Academia en cuestiones puramente ideológicas. Las opiniones sobre política de sus componentes no pintan absolutamente nada en informes académicos oficiales. Esto es lo que viene a decir el señor Moreno Cabrera en su artículo y me parece muy acertado.
    – Nirro
    Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 20:48
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    Nirei: I think we are apparently reading very different texts. The RAE talks about linguistic necessity, not sociopoliticocultural necessity. Also note that your suggestion only works so long as the number doesn't reflect gender distinction. If we were talking 200 docentes we must specify doscientos or doscientas, thereby indicating gender. As to politics and academy, as a professor, I can say that will never happen: "Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low" Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 2:43
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    Nirei, estoy totalmente de acuerdo con lo que dices; aplaudo tus posturas, y siempre que se me hace posible, intento usar lenguaje que incluya, no que excluya. Sé muy bien que las formas masculinas siempre se han aceptado como neutras, pero, como sociolingüista, estoy consciente de que la palabra sin duda alguna ayuda a forjar percepciones. Respeto a quienes prefieran usar el masculino para todo, pero yo trato de hacer "gimnasia" siempre que pueda. :-) Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 18:51

Yo hubiese escrito esto: «El titular de la Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP), Aurelio Nuño Mayer, subrayó que en la evaluación de desempeño se han presentado 132 mil docentes cuya capacitación es lo que sigue como parte de un proceso en el que aseguró nadie perderá su trabajo».

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    This only works for as long as the number doesn't end in -1 or -100. se han presentado 132.481 docentes requires gender (in speech or if spelled out) Commented Dec 15, 2015 at 21:07
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    ¡Qué buen ojo! Tienes razón. Por cierto, recuerda que es 132 481. lema.rae.es/dpd/srv/search?id=rqV8h362gD62vc21qB Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 18:17

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