The Article in the Spanish Language

In Spanish there are nine lexical categories. When we are learning a foreign language, we need to be familiar with those categories, and with their characteristics. It is important to know how each category behaves in a syntactic structure, if their form is inflected when used in a particular way, if we have to match the gender and the number of and adjective and a noun, and many other grammatical rules that will lead us to the correct learning of the language. You can find out more about how to learn Spanish grammar and Spanish language here and you can learn more Spanish vocabulary by following this link.

Learn More About the Spanish Article

One of the categories we need to focus on is the article, for they follow different patterns in Spanish than in English. Article is the class of word that precedes the noun. It has to match the gender and the number of the noun it precedes.

There are two types of articles in Spanish language:

definite article – artículo definido o determinado

, and

Indefinite article – artículo indefinido o indeterminado  

Definite Article in the Spanish Language

Definite article – Artículo definido o determinado

The definite article indicates that the entity the noun refers to is known. It is atonic, which means that it is not pronounced with accent or stress. When we utter a sentence with the definite article, we need to meet the matching between gender and number of the article and the noun.

These are the definite articles in Spanish language:

el – masculine singular

la – feminine singular

los – masculine plural

las – feminine plural

el libro – los libros (book – books)

la pared – las paredes (wall – walls)

 Indefinite Article in the Spanish Language 

Indefinite article – Artículo indefinido o intederminado

The indefinite article indicates that the entity that the nouns refer to is unknown, this means that the receiver of the message is not necessary familiar with the information it contains. It is also atonic.

These are the indefinite articles in Spanish language.

un – masculine singular

una – feminine singular

unos – masculine plural

unas – feminine plural

un niño – unos niños (child – children)

una casa – unas casas (house – houses) 

Notice that when we are building a discourse, if we are talking about unknown information, or introducing new information, in Spanish we will always use an indefinite article. Once that this information is given, however, we will repeatedly refer to it with a definite article, as in the following examples:

Esta mañana he visto un perro. El perro no llevaba collar. - I saw a dog this morning. The dog was not wearing a collar.

Una mujer me ha preguntado dónde estaba la estación. La mujer era extranjera.A woman asked me where the station was. The woman was from another country.

Un hombre ha venido a buscarte. El hombre era joven y moreno. – A man came asking for you. The man was young and had dark hair.

Me gustaría ir al cine a ver una película. La película tiene que ser alegre. – I would like to go to the cinema to watch a movie. The movie has to be nice. 

Notice that if we want to express our opinion about a precise topic or general idea, we will use a definite article.

No me gusta la playa, prefiero la montaña. – I do not like the beach, I prefer the mountain.

Me gusta el arte contemporáneo. – I love modern art.

Creo que el atletismo es un deporte muy exigente. – I think athletics is a very hard sport.

There are other situations with different grammatical structures when it is correct to use definite article:

When we are talking about something that is known of familiar for the receiver of the message:

Préstame el libro de inglés.  – Lend me the English language book. (both utterer and receiver are familiar with the book they are talking about)

We can also use definite article when we express the time:

Es la una. – It is one o’clock.

Son las doce. – It is twelve o’clock.

Ven a las nueve. – Come at nine o’clock. 

Or when we express some facts concerning the days of the week:

El domingo fui al cine. - I went to the cinema on Sunday.

Los martes voy a clase de inglés. – On Tuesday I attend English language classes.

El mejor día de la semana es el viernes.The best day of the week is Friday.

Also when we want to talk about certain locations:

El mar Mediterráneo es precioso.The Mediterranean sea is beautiful.

There are also some other situations where we can use an indefinite article:

When we are mentioning something for the first time:

Ayer me compré un coche nuevo. – I bought a new car yesterday.

Me han dicho que aquí cerca hay un restaurante muy bueno. – They told me that there is a good restaurant near. 

When we talk about professions:

Es un profesor muy bueno. – He is a good teacher.

Mi horno no va, tengo que llamar a un electricista. – My oven is not working, I have to call an electrician. 

Please notice that if we are talking about people and their professions and we are using the verb ser – to be, it is not correct to use indefinite article following the verb.

Mi amigo es profesor.My friends is professor. no article between the verb and the noun

Su madre es enfermera.Her mother is nurse.

Contractions of the Article in Spanish Language

Sometimes we will use the definite article preceded by the prepositions a or de. When this happens, we will use the contracted forms, as in the following examples:

preposition a + definite article el – al 

¿Quieres ir al cine? – Do you want to go to the cinema?

preposition de + definite article el – del 

¿Necesitas algo del supermercado? – Do you need anything from the supermarket? 

The contractions only take place in masculine gender singular, if we need to use the preposition a + definite article la, we do not contract this form. 

Vamos a la biblioteca. – Let’s go to the library.

Now that we know that Spanish language has very specific grammar concerning the article, we can practice and learn more about the article and other lexical categories by enrolling in an online Spanish course.