HomeQ&AWhen to use masculine and femine articles

When to use masculine and femine articles

2
votes

There's already a topic with this heading but its misleading, as it really asks WHAT it is. My question is WHEN do you use it?

For example, I was looking up the word "hacia" at Spanishdict, since I originally got it confused with hacía. One of the examples given was "un paso más hacia la guerra civil -> a further step toward civil war".

Okay, in the example, why is it "un paso más hacia la guerra civil" instead of "un paso más hacia guerra civil"? Does it have to do with possession? If you can't use mi/mis or su/sus, use the masuline/femine article?

2109 views
updated OCT 6, 2009
edited by SenorMike
posted by SenorMike

5 Answers

0
votes

SenorMike said:

Well I used SpanishDict's own example for "hacia", not my own, so perhaps SpanishDict should revise it?

The example is fine, since "la guerra civil" is a generic noun referring to a concept in general. Spanish normally uses the definite article with such nouns.

A better example would be when I was in Spanish class yesterday. We got to verbs conjugated like gustar, but they teacher wanted to familiarize us with gustar. Some of the examples she used was "A ella le gustan los perros." The teacher said its saying dogs are pleasing to her. Almost everyone raised their hands saying why was "los" used? She basically said no importa, you can use it or not, either way is correct. Same with "Me gusta el español." Everyone asked why is "el" used, she said doesn't matter, either way is fine.

The use or omission of the article in such cases is very hard to pin down, and they vary according to region also. If you're interested, Butt & Benjamin (A new reference grammar of modern Spanish) has 13 pages of discussion. Poor teacher... I'd use it in both your sentences above, though, but it's mainly based on my (still under development) feeling.

updated OCT 6, 2009
posted by Vikingo
0
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This English phrase might appear in a paragraph in which "which" civil war is already understood. One would not write "the" civil war in that case, right? It would sound awkward, as if the war were the "civil" one instead of some other one. -

Within the context of American history, the "Civil War" (with capital letters) can only refer to the war "between the states" (1861-1865), in Spain the war waged in 1936-1939, and in Japan, the war in the early 1600's (this is a stretch because they don't normally speak of a "civil war").If you mean to oppose "civil" and "uncivil" (I'm unsure what would constitute a "civil" war).

In spoken English (or written English when read aloud), one would need to stress the word "civil" to make the distinction between civil and uncivil (and, even with such stress, I suspect that you would be widely misunderstood).

The situation is not unlike the use of the phrase "The 2nd World War". One does not normally ask, "which world?"

updated SEP 15, 2009
posted by samdie
0
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Well I used SpanishDict's own example for "hacia", not my own, so perhaps SpanishDict should revise it?

A better example would be when I was in Spanish class yesterday. We got to verbs conjugated like gustar, but they teacher wanted to familiarize us with gustar. Some of the examples she used was "A ella le gustan los perros." The teacher said its saying dogs are pleasing to her. Almost everyone raised their hands saying why was "los" used? She basically said no importa, you can use it or not, either way is correct. Same with "Me gusta el español." Everyone asked why is "el" used, she said doesn't matter, either way is fine.

updated SEP 15, 2009
posted by SenorMike
Is your teacher a native Spanish speaker? We have not seen an answer from someone from the native speaker community to this very interesting and thought-provoking question. My dictionary has like examples, I can post them if you would like. - Janice, SEP 15, 2009
No she's not a Native speaker. I think she went to school for it and then taught kids in Latin countries how to speak English before teaching it in college. - SenorMike, SEP 15, 2009
0
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"un paso más hacia la guerra civil" instead of "un paso más hacia guerra civil"

Interesting point,. Your choices in Spanish would be (I think) "la guerra civil" (if you have in mind a specific historical occurence [such as the Civil War] or "una guerra civil" (if you were talking about some civil war). English, however, permits/accepts the dropping of the definite/indefinite article when referring to the general state of "civil war", while, as far as I know, Spanish requires the use of "el"/"la" (depending on the gender of the subject) for this "intermediate" case.

updated SEP 14, 2009
posted by samdie
This English phrase might appear in a paragraph in which "which" civil war is already understood. One would not write "the" civil war in that case, right? It would sound awkward, as if the war were the "civil" one instead of some other one. - Janice, SEP 14, 2009
0
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Could you give us a wider context of the phrase with the civil war?

updated SEP 14, 2009
posted by Issabela
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