Definite and Indefinite Articles in Spanish

What is the difference between definite and indefinite articles in Spanish?

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What is an article in Spanish? Artículo Definido e Indefinido

An article is a word that is used with a noun (person, animal, thought or thing) to help define it. In English, the definite article is “the” and the indefinite articles are “a/an”, depending on the noun.

The same concept applies in Spanish. However, the difficulty comes from having to remember gender because the gender of the article must match the gender of the noun.

Just like English, Spanish has a definite and an indefinite article and the concept remains the same.

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Whats is difference between the definite article and the indefinite article?

The difference between the definite article and the indefinite article is that the former talks about a specific noun, and the latter talks about a generalized noun.

  • Please buy me a bike.
  • Please buy me the blue bike.

As you can see, the definite article “the” describes the specific blue bike, while the indefinite article “a” describes a bike in general.

Definite and Indefinite Articles in Spanish


Definite articles

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.

Examples:

  1.       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’.
  2.       El cielo es azulthe 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’.
  3.       Los libros son rojosthe 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.
  4.       Las camisetas son negrosthe 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’.
 SingularPlural
MasculineElLos
FeminineLaLas

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.

SingularPlural
El aguaLas aguas
El HombreLos Hombres

 

Indefinite articles

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. 

 SingularPlural
Masculineununos
Feminineunaunas

Examples:

  1.       Quiero una galletita – 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. Galletita is feminine, so we use the ‘una’ as the indefinite pronoun.
  2.       Quiero leer un libro – I want to read a book. ‘Un’ is the indefinite article as libro is singular and masculine.
  3.       Mi novio compró unas flores – My boyfriend bought (some) flowers. ‘Unas’ was used because flores is plural and feminine.
  4.       Necesitos unos lápices para mis clases –I need (some) pencils for my classes.  ‘Unos’ was used because lápices  is plural and masculine.

Consider this:

The definite article ‘el’ is different to the pronoun ‘él’ which means he. “Él” will always appear on its own but “el” will always be followed by a noun. Look at the following sentence:

Él compró el diario hoy. He bought the paper today.

If you want to know more, check out our other blogs posts. Here is one about Por vs Para:

Summary
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Definite and Indefinite Articles in Spanish
Description
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.

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