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The Definite Articles in Spanish

The Definite Article in SpanishThe definite article is used more frequently in Spanish than it is in English.

The definite article is used to refer to something specific: "El profesor de español", 'The Spanish teacher' and must always agree in number and gender with its noun.

Like in English, we use the indefinite articles (un, una, unos, unas) to introduce a noun, and after the first time we mentioned this noun we use the definite article (el, la, los, las).

- I have a cat and a dog.

- The cat hates the dog and the dog loves the cat.

For now, let's look at when to use the definite articles and see some examples (below the charts).

 

The definite article is used:

1. To refer to something specific.

2. With abstract nouns and nouns used in a general sense.

3. With parts of the body and articles of clothing instead of the possessive adjective.

4. With the adjectives "pasado" and "próximo".

5. With personal titles such as "señor, doctor, etc." when talking about a third person.

6. With names of languages.

 

7. With seasons of the year, days of the week, dates of the month, and time of day.

8. To avoid repeating a noun.

9. To refer to something unique: "el sol, Pedro's parents, el Rey de España".

10. With the verb "gustar".

11. Before words like "río, mar, calle, norte, etc."

12. The superlative

The definite article is not used:

1. When we talk about something that is not specific.

 

3. When possession is emphasized to avoid ambiguity, the possessive adjective is used instead.

 

 

5. In direct address.

 

 

6. Directly after the verbs "hablar” and "estar" or the prepositions "en" and "de".

7. With the days of the week, after the verb "ser".

Here are some examples:

1. El profesor de español se llama Pedro. (The Spanish teacher is called Pedro).

Note: You cannot use the definite article to refer to someone or something that is not specific: Conozco a un profesor de español buenísimo en Londres (I know a really good Spanish teacher in London). Same rule applies in English.

2. La ciencia es importante. (Science is important.)

La vida es bella. (Life is beautiful.)

Creo en la justicia (I believe in justice.)

El café tiene cafeína. (Coffee has caffeine.)

Los perros son animales inteligentes. (Dogs are intelligent animals.)

Los españoles duermen la siesta todos los días. (Spaniards have a siesta every day.)

Note: Unlike English, articles are used in Spanish before abstract nouns or when talking about a category or group in general.

3. Tengo el pelo castaño. (I have brown hair.)

Note: When possession is emphasized to avoid ambiguity, you do not use the definite article but the possessive adjectives instead: The sentence "El pelo es rubio" does not implied a person, so to specify the person who has blonde hair a possessive adjective is required: "Mi pelo es rubio" .

4. Voy a Barcelona el próximo año. (I'm going to Barcelona next year.)

5. El señor López es profesor. (Mr. López is a teacher.)

Note: It is also used to refer to a couple: Los señores López Sánchez.

The definite article is used when talking about someone but you cannot use it if the person is directly addressed: Entre, señora García (Come in, Mrs García).

6. El español es fácil. (Spanish is easy.)

Note: The definite article is not used directly after the verbs "hablar" and "estar" or the prepositions "en" and "de": Hablo español muy bien (I speak Spanish very well). I

7. Juego a tenis los martes en Londres. (I play tennis on Tuesdays in London.)

La reunión es a la una y media. (María's parents are doctors.)

Note: The definite article is not used with days of the week, after the verb "ser" in the expressions "hoy es", "mañana es", etc.: Hoy es martes y mañana será miércoles (Today, it's Tuesday and tomorrow will be Wednesday).

8. El coche de Pedro y el de Juan son nuevos. (Pedro and Juan's cars are new.)

9. El sol está detrás de las nubes. (The sun is behind the clouds.)

Los padres de María son médicos. (María's parents are doctors.)

10. No me gustan las verduras. (I don't like vegetables.)

11. El sur del país es más cálido. (The south of the country is warmer.)

12. Barcelona es la ciudad más bonita de España. (Barcelona is the most beautiful city in Spain.)

As regards countries, the definite article is used with some of them and is not used with others. Unlike English, there is no rule to tell you when to use the definite article. You simply have to memorise the ones that do.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Marino GuerreroMARINO GUERRERO

Marino Guerrero is a tutor of Spanish as a foreign language, dedicated to providing one-to-one Spanish lessons all over London and worldwide through Skype.

 

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