Using the Definite Article in Spanish

Overview

Spanish nouns are often accompanied by a definite article or an indefinite article. A lot of the time, the inclusion or omission of a definite article in Spanish matches up with the English translation.

Pásame el arroz.
Pass me the rice.
 
Como helado.
I eat ice cream.
 

However, there are also times that you will use the definite article in Spanish but not in the English translation. Below you will find a some helpful guidelines for remembering when and when not to use the definite article in Spanish.

When to Use the Definite Article

1. To Talk about Facts or Opinions in General

La comida de México es deliciosa.
Mexican food is delicious.
 
Los gatos son inteligentes.
Cats are intelligent.
 

2. Days of the Week

El lunes tengo que trabajar.
On Monday, I have to work.
 
Los lunes, voy al gimnasio.
On Mondays, I go to the gym.
 

When a day of the week follows a form of the verb ser, no article is used.

Hoy es lunes.  (Today is Monday.)

3. Names of Languages

El japonés y el alemán son lenguas difíciles.
Japanese and German are difficult languages.
 
El español me gusta mucho.
I really like Spanish.
 

When a language is the object of a verb, the definite article is not used.

Yo hablo español.
I speak Spanish.
 
Quiero aprender español.
I want to learn Spanish.
 
Me gusta estudiar español.
I like to study Spanish.
 
Me enseñaban español.
They taught me Spanish.
 

4. Body Parts and Clothing

Me duele el estómago.
My stomach hurts.
 
Si no traes la camisa fajada, no puedes entrar.
If your shirt isn't tucked in, you can't come in.
 

5. Telling Time

Es la una.
It's one o'clock.
 
Vamos a las tres.
We leave at three.
 

The definite article used for telling time is always feminine since it references la hora  (the time).

6. Long-Form Possession

Las películas de Almodóvar son interesantes.
Almodóvar's movies are interesting.
 
Las flores de tu mamá crecieron un buen.
Your mom's flowers grew a lot.
 

7. Titles Used When Talking about Someone

El doctor Hernández es inteligente.
Dr. Hernandez is intelligent.
 
La señora Cuevas tiene una casa bonita.
Mrs. Cuevas has a beautiful house.
 

Articles aren't used before titles when you are talking to someone or with titles like San, Santo/a, Don, and Doña. Articles also are not used before an ordinal number in a title.

Señora Ocón, ¿cómo está?
Mrs. Ocon, how are you?
 
Los restos de San Nicolás están en Bari.
Saint Nicholas's remains are in Bari.
 
Don Juan es un hombre muy romántico.
Don Juan is a very romantic man.
 
Felipe II nació en Valladolid.
Philip II was born in Valladolid.
 

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