What is the significance of having el OR la at the begining of a word in Spanish?
I started today with SpanishDict.com and jumped into the flashcards section. I guess every thing in Spanish has a gender and does el OR la at the beginning of a word indicate the gender of the object that word represents?
Thanks for your time.
You're correct. Except with some words that are feminine and just use el in the singular form, words that begin with a stressed "a" sound such as el águila or el agua. They are feminine, but use el because la already ends in an a. When plural they use las, it doesn't end in a. Other than that, el or la signifies the gender, the ending of the word doesn't always. Some masculine words end in a for example. El mapa.
In addition to the other answers..
El and La are known as definite articles. In English we use "the" as a definite article. To teach by contrast, Spanish has Un and Una as indefinite articles. These correspond to the english "a" and "an." So when you speak of THE CAT you say "El gato" (notice that "gato" is masculine, ends in 'o', and so gets El rather than La), and when you are referring to A CAT you say "Un gato."
All nouns in Spanish have a grammatical gender (and number). Any adjective that modifies a noun must agree in gender and number with the noun that it modifies (definite articles are a particular sub-class of adjectives).For phonetic reasons, the (usually) masculine article may be used before a feminine noun but that does not mean that the noun has suddenly become a masculine noun.
Although languages have an interior logic, they also have exceptions.