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Spanish definite articles

08 May, 2017 Popular Articles
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An article is a word used to modify, to point out or to refer to a noun (a person, an object, an idea, a place, etc). Articles indicate the gender, number of a noun, and whether the noun is known to the reader/the listener. Just like in English, there are two types of articles in Spanish: definite and indefinite articles. In this lesson, we will learn about definite articles and find out what is a definite article and when to use definite articles “the” in Spanish.

Spanish definite articles

Definition

Definite articles are words used to talk about specific nouns or to indicate that the noun is known to the reader or the listener.
There are 4 forms of definite articles in Spanish: el, la, los, las. And of course, they often mean “the” in English. However, there are still times in Spanish that you use the definite article but you will NOT translate it to mean “the”.

 SingularPlural
MasculineElLos
FeminineLaLas

Examples:

el gato - the male cat
los gatos - the male cats
la gata - the female cat
las gatas - the female cats

Note:

  • A definite article in Spanish must match both the gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) of the noun it modifies.

Examples:

El libro está en el escritorio - The book is on the desk

La literatura española es muy interesante - Spanish literature is very interesting

Spanish definite articles

4 forms of Spanish definite articles

Exceptions:

The masculine definite article should be used instead of the feminine definite one when a feminine singular noun begins with a stressed “a” or “ha” sound. However, when the same noun is plural, you should use the regular feminine article. The exceptions will be listed out below:

SingularPluralEnglish

el águila
las águilasthe eagle(s)
el almalas almasthe soul(s)
el agualas aguasthe water(s)
el hachalas hachasthe axe(s)

Spanish definite articles and usage

When to use definite articles in Spanish?

1. To identify or to refer to a specific noun

Just like in English, in Spanish, you use definite articles to identify or to refer to a specific noun that has already been specified.

For example:

A mi papá le gusta poner la bandera grande mexicana afuera de la casa 
My dad likes to put the big Mexican flag outside of the house

2. To express a concept or a general truth

For example:

A mi mamá no le gustaban los Estados Unidos; la vida aquí era muy difícil.

My mom didn’t like the United States; life here was very difficult.

3. To express likes or dislikes

Unlike in English, in Spanish, people use the definite article with verbs of preference like gustar, preferir, encantar, odiar. 

For example:

Me gustan mucho los animales - I like animals a lot

4. Days of the week

In Spanish, definite articles are used with days of the week, also to indicate habitual recurrence. 

For example:

Los viernes nos pagaba según las horas que uno trabajaba - Fridays he paid us according to the hours one worked.

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