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Using the Definite Article in Spanish

Using the Definite Article in Spanish

Quick Answer

Spanish nouns are often accompanied by a definite article, and they are often used in instances in which an article would not be used in English.

Spanish vs. English Usage

A lot of the time, the inclusion or omission of a definite article in Spanish matches up with the English translation.

For example:

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 to use the definite article in Spanish. Though this list is not exhaustive, it gives you a good idea of some uses of Spanish definite articles that don't match up with English usage.

When to Use the Definite Article

1. To Talk Things in General

When talking about something in general, such as a type of food, music, book, etc. or a group of some sort, you'll use the definite article in Spanish.

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

2. Days of the Week

In Spanish, definite articles are used with the days of the week.

Tengo que trabajar el lunes.
I have to work on Monday.
 
Voy al gimnasio los lunes.
I go to the gym on Mondays.
 

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

Definite articles are used with names of languages in Spanish when the language is the subject of a sentence.

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

Definite articles are often used with body parts and articles of clothing in Spanish.

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

Definite articles are used before numbers when 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 hour).

6. Long-Form Possession

Definite articles are used when talking about things possessed or created by someone.

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

Definite articles are also used when giving someone's title.

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.

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.
 

Want to learn more about Spanish articles? Check out our article on Spanish indefinite articles.

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