Definite and Indefinite Articles in Spanish
In order to learn any language, you need to spend some time understanding basic grammar and while it is not the most exciting aspect of learning a new language, it is important. One essential element of Spanish is the article.
What is an article?
An article is a word that is used with a noun (person, animal, thought or thing) to help define it. In English the articles used are typically ‘the’ is referring to something specific or ‘a’ if in general. The same concept applies in Spanish however you need to remember gender, because the gender of the article must match the gender of the noun.
As in English, Spanish has a definite and an indefinite article. The concept remains the same, but the words are different. The articles are Definite and Indefinite.
The definite article is used to refer to something specific. In English the article would be ‘the’. In Spanish, you have 4 options depending on the gender and the number.
- Quiero la naranja – I want the orange. In this instance, we are referring to one orange, so we use the singular form and naranga is feminine, so the correct definite article to use is ‘la’.
- El cielo es azul – the sky is blue. In this case we are referring to the sky as a whole and therefore use the singular for and cielo is masculine, so the correct definite article is ‘el’.
- Los libros son rojos – the books are red. In this instance we are still talking about something in particular, but there is more than one so we use the plural form of the noun and the corresponding plural form article, so the correct definite article is ‘los’. Note also that the adjective rojo changes from singular to plural to correspond with the noun.
- Las camisetas son negros – the shirts are black. Again, here you see we are talking about more than one short so we use the plural form of the noun and corresponding plural form of the article, ‘las’.
Of course, most rules have exceptions and this rule is no different.
When a feminine and singular noun begins with a stressed á, a, 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.
|El agua||Las aguas|
|El Hombre||Los Hombres|
When you use the indefinite article, you are not referring to a specific person or thing. The English indefinite articles are ‘a’, ‘an’ or ‘some’ and as with the definite article, you have 4 options depending on the gender and the number.Indefinite articles
- Quiero una galleta – I want a biscuit. In this instance, it’s not a specific biscuit. It could be any sort of biscuit and I only want one. Galleta is feminine, so we use the ‘una’ as the indefinite pronoun.
- Quiero leer un libro – I want to read a book. ‘Un’ is the indefinite article as libro is singular and masculine.
- Mi novio me dio unas floras – My boyfriend gave me (some) flowers. ‘Unas’ was used because floras are plural and feminine.
- Necesitos unos bolígrafos para mis clases –I need (some) pens for my classes. ‘Unos’ was used because boligrafos is plural and masculine.
The definite article ‘el’ is different to the pronoun ‘él’ which means he. Take care to look out for the accent as it not only changes the pronunciation, but also the meaning of a word.
In this blog we have spoken about nouns and their gender. If you want to know more, check out our blog post to help you get it straight.
These grammar concepts (and much more) are taught at Vamos Spanish Academy. Take a look at our website and we will be happy to help your on your way to learning Spanish.