Articles - Definite

Overview

In Spanish, nouns don´t like to be alone, so they have articles! Articles indicate the gender (masculine, feminine) and number (singular, plural) of a noun, as well as whether the noun is known to the reader or the listener (definite, indefinite). And even though nouns can only be masculine or feminine, there are neuter articles, which only refer to abstract ideas. There are 4 definite articles in Spanish and they all mean the exact same thing: the. There are 4 different articles in Spanish because there are four possible forms for a noun to take, and each has its own definite article:

Definite Articles: "the"

singular plural
feminine la las
masculine el los
Match Gender AND Number

The definite article always has to match the gender and number of its noun. If the noun is feminine and singular (salsa), then its article also has to be feminine and singular (la salsa). If that same noun becomes plural (salsas) the article also becomes plural (las salsas).

Exceptions

When a feminine and singular noun begins with a stressed á or ha, the masculine definite article is used instead to aide in pronunciation. When the same noun is plural, the regular feminine article is used.

Exceptional Definite Articles

Singular Plural
el águila las águilas
el alma las almas
el agua las aguas
el hambre las hambres

Uses of the Definite Article

As previously mentioned, Spanish nouns don´t like to be alone, so they partner with an article. Most of the time, knowing when and when not to use the article is obvious:

  • Pásame el arroz. (Pass me the rice.)
  • Como helado. (I eat ice cream.) But there are many times in Spanish that you will use the definite article and you will NOT translate it to mean "the." The following instances require an article.

1. With nouns used in a general sense

  • La comida de México es deliciosa. (Mexican food is delicious.)
  • Las películas de Almodóvar son interesantes. (Almodóvar´s movies are interesting.)

2. With 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.)

3. With names of languages

  • El japonés y el alemán son lenguas difíciles. (Japanese and German are difficult languages.)
  • Me gusta mucho el español. (I really like Spanish.)
Exception: Hablar

Do not use the article after hablar: Yo hablo español.

(I speak Spanish.)

4. With parts of the body and clothing

  • Me duele el estómago. (My stomach hurts.)
  • Tienes la falda muy bonita. (Your skirt is very pretty.)

5. To tell time

  • Es la una. (It is one o'clock.)
  • Vamos a las tres y media. (We go at three thirty.)
Gender and Time

The definite article for time will always be feminine.

6. When talking about someone

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

When NOT to use definite articles

1. With titles when addressing a person, or with San, Santo/a, Don, and Doña

  • Señora Ocón, ¿cómo está? (Mrs. Ocón, how are you?)
  • Santo Domingo está en el caribe. (Santo Domingo is in the Caribbean.)
  • Don Juan es un hombre muy romántico. (Don Juan is a very romantic man.)

2. With nouns referring to academic subjects

  • Mi amigo estudia matemáticas y biología. (My friend studies math and biology.)

3. With ordinal numbers in titles

  • Felipe II (Segundo) (Philip the Second)

Exercises

1) Write the definite article for each noun.

Example: ñandu -> el ñandu

  1. libro
  2. secretos
  3. agua
  4. camisa
  5. lápiz
  6. leones
  7. padres
  8. actor
  9. carro
  10. niña

2) For each sentence, fill in the blank with the correct definite article. If no article is needed, leave it blank.

  1. Me gusta ir al cine ___|__ viernes.
  2. Son ___|__ cinco y cuarto de la tarde.
  3. ___|__ literatura española es interesante.
  4. A Jamie le gustan ___|__ matemáticas.
  5. Me duele ___|\___| diente.

Answers

Part 1

  1. el libro
  2. los secretos
  3. el agua
  4. la camisa
  5. el lápiz
  6. los leones
  7. los padres
  8. el actor
  9. el carro
  10. la niña

Part 2

  1. los
  2. las
  3. la
  4. none
  5. el
218567 views
updated Aug 6, 2012
edited by martha-sd
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