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Another question touched on this issue, but I wanted to ask in more detail. Mar is a noun that can be masculine or feminine. I have heard that there are subtle differences in connotations between the two (for example, one gender is more often used in certain contexts, or one sounds more poetic or emotional). What exactly are the difference senses that each gender has? Are these connotations universal through the Spanish-speaking world, or are there regional differences as well?

  • Note that there isn't any real connotation or difference, the meaning is always the same, as by definition of "nombre ambiguo". It's just a matter of preference in choosing the gender depending on the context. – JoulSauron Jul 5 '12 at 18:08
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    El Mar is the sea. La Mar makes donuts. Mmmmm. Yummy! – Flimzy Jul 5 '12 at 19:24
  • 'Pasé la mar cuando creyó mi engaño / que en él mi antiguo fuego se templara...' Lope de Vega – user10796 Sep 11 '15 at 23:38
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As RAE states in the website it's an ambiguous name, i.e. it accepts both genders, so grammatically it would be correct to use any of them, unless for the expressions given there which just accept one.

Depending on the region one is more used than the other. For example in Spain the people who live close to the sea (sailors) tend to say "la mar", though in the rest of the country people use more "el mar". Also, "la mar" sounds more poetic, so it's probably more used in poems.

Anyway, there are expressions which are more typical to be heard with one gender (at least haven't heard in the other way), for example:

In masculine:

Bajo el mar

En el fondo del mar

Mar abierto

In femenine:

la mar de (when it means much) e.g. HabĂ­a la mar de gente - this can only be used in femenine.

When speaking about the kind of the sea we have today it's usually only in femenine, e.g. these ones:

Mar alta

Mar gruesa

Mar arbolada

Mar rizada

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  • In poetry, I guess in a poem about the sea fits better "la mar" because it's how sailors use it. – JoulSauron Jul 5 '12 at 18:04
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    While in Galicia, once I asked a seaman why sometimes he referred to the sea in feminine and his answer was (in spanish, obviously): "because sometimes she's just a huge bitch!". He had a hard life, I guess. – Quarkex Sep 13 '14 at 15:02
  • I found your answer interesting, @Javi, but I am curious about the phrase "mar de gente." When I looked it up using Reverso's context search engine, it returns 13 example sentences, but none with a feminine use of "mar." This makes me inclined to believe that its use as a feminine noun in this instance is regional. Are you from Spain and if so, which part? Also, I see many instances of "alta mar" but not "mar alta." Is "mar alta" an equally acceptable alternative for "alta mar?" – Lisa Beck Jul 21 '16 at 17:38
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Actually the most common is "el mar". When people say "la mar" is to emphasize or to give a romantic meaning. Also seamen use "nos vamos a la mar".

But in daily spanish people say "el mar". It happens something similar with "el calor" and "la calor".

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    I don't agree, people who lives near the sea usually says "la mar" – Laura Jul 6 '12 at 14:57
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    I lived by the sea in Spain for all my life and the most common is "el mar". Sailors use "la mar", but they are not most of the people. – Carlos Cachalote Jul 10 '12 at 8:33
  • Anyway, I think it is a matter of which area you are living. In some places will be more common to hear "la mar" and i onthers "el mar". I speak for my region, – Carlos Cachalote Jul 10 '12 at 8:38
  • @Carlos Cachalote When you say you speak for your region, obviously you are referring to some place by the sea in Spain. What part of Spain and do you think this is true for other coastal regions of Spain? – Lisa Beck Jul 14 '16 at 12:11
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"La mar" is used mostly in poetry.

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Ernest Hemingway says at his book The Old Man and the Sea:

...he has given the sea the name 'la mar' as it is told in Spanish by them who love her..."

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I have heard that la mar is used when people are actually on the sea, travelling across, on the water. This may explain why sailors tend to use la mar.

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