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Spanish Definite and Indefinite Articles

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Infographics of Definite and Indefinite Articles in Spanish

What is an Article in Spanish?

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An article is an adjective that modifies nouns like any person, animals, place, objects, ideas, etc. In English, there are commonly two articles are used: “the” and “a” or “an”. 

“The” refers to any definite or specific article whereas “a/an” refers to an indefinite article. These can either be singular or plural.

For example-
  • "Lees la historia" significa "una historia específica". =“You read the story” means “a specific story”.

  • . "Lees una historia" significa "cualquier historia en lugar de una historia específica". =. “You read a story” means “any story instead of a specific story”.

  • "Viste un elefante" significa "un elefante en lugar de un elefante específico". =“You saw an elephant” means “an elephant instead of a specific elephant”.

Meaning of Definite and Indefinite Articles

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The definite and indefinite articles in Spanish are much more contrary and the uses are a bit different than in English.

In Spanish, we use articles for specific and unspecific objects. Moreover, they are important to correct and accurate speech. 

The only problem is that we have to remember gender because the gender of the article must match the gender of the noun.

There are various conditions such as talking about transport, dates, the time, or referring to someone’s identity where Spanish articles don’t act as you would think.

Although in Spanish, articles cause some difficulties in the topics such as ser and estar, por and para, or direct and indirect objects. You need to learn articles to grow a deep understanding of exceptions, and these frequently occurring Spanish words.
Here, you will learn all about Spanish definite and indefinite articles including the difference between both articles, what they are, when to use them, when not to use them, contractions of the definite article, and exclusion in both the articles.
  • Los juguetes (Las juguetes) son muy bonitos. =The toys (Las juguetes) are very nice.

Difference between Definite and Indefinite Article

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The basic difference between the definite article and the indefinite article is that the first talks about a specific noun, and the second talks about a universal noun.

The translation of definite "the" article into Spanish also happens to be the most frequently occurring pair of words, the Spanish definite articles are- el and la.
In both English and Spanish languages, we need definite articles to refer to specific things or people in a group or class.

In Spanish articles, if you want to refer to a specific thing or person, you will need to be carefully matching the article with the gender and plural of the noun. There are four forms for the translation of definite article ‘the’ into - el, la, Los, and las.

For example
  • La puerta (La puert) está abierta. =The door (La puert) is open.

  • Se revela la verdad (El verdad). =The truth (El verdad) is revealed.

  • Los juguetes (Las juguetes) son muy bonitos =The toys (Las juguetes) are very nice

  • Los viajeros (Los viajeros) vieron Taj. =The travelers (Los travelers) saw Taj.

What are Definite Articles?

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The definite article is used to refer to something specific. In English, the article would be ‘the’. In Spanish, you have four options depending on the gender and the number. There are four forms of a definite article in Spanish such as el, la, los, and las. 

“El” is always used for singular, masculine words whereas “La” is always used for singular, feminine words. Just like, “Los” is always used for the plural, masculine words whereas “Las” is always used for the plural, feminine words.
  • Quiere la naranja. (la naranja) =He wants the orange. (la naranja )

  • El cielo es azul. (El cielo) =The sky is blue. (El cielo)

  • Los libros son buenos. (Los libros) =The books are good. (Los libros)

  • Las camisetas son muy grandes. (Las camisetas) =The shirts are very large. (Las camisetas)

Contractions with Definite Articles

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In Spanish, when the definite article el is preceded by a or de, it forms a contraction with those words for easy pronunciation, just like how “a” turns into “an” in some sentences. Just as “A + el = al” and “De + el = del”.
  • Al casa =To the house

  • Al salón =To the lounge

  • Del gata =Of the cat

  • Del embarcacion =From the ship

  • Del teléfono =Of the phone

  • Mi criada va a la casa todos los días. =My maid goes to the house every day.

  • El acaba de llegar del barco =He just came from the ship

What are Indefinite Articles?

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When you use the indefinite article, you are not referring to a specific person or thing. The indefinite articles are ‘a’, ‘an’ or ‘some’. It refers to the universal objects or nouns. There are four forms of the indefinite article in Spanish such as un, una, unos, and unas.

“Un” is always used for singular, masculine words whereas “Una” is always used for singular, feminine words. Just like, “Unos” is always used for the plural, masculine words whereas “Unas” is always used for the plural, feminine words.
  • Quiere una galleta. (una galletita) =He wants a biscuit. (una galletita)

  • Quieres leer un libro. (un libro) =You want to read a book. (un libro)

  • Mi padre vio algunas casas. (unas casas) =My father saw some houses. (unas casas)

  • Necesita lápices para escribir. (unos lápices) =She needs some pencils to write. (unos lápices )

Exclusion of Articles in Spanish

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Articles in Spanish can be excluded in some particular conditions. 

Definite Article

The definite article can be excluded when it is used with ordinal numbers for names of kings and queens. The Spanish article can’t be omitted when used with days of the week.

El shouldn’t be excluded with names of languages and phrases that contain the preposition en or verbs. In the same way, the definite article el can be excluded with seasons of the year and with means of transport.
  • Elizabeth el segundo. =Elizabeth the second.

  • Hoy es domingo. =Today is Sunday.

  • Mi hermano sabe español. =My brother knows Spanish.

  • Ella siempre va a la playa en verano. =She always goes to the beach in the summer.

  • Voy a la oficina en coche. =I go to the office by car.

Exclusion of Articles in Spanish (Indefinite)

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In the Spanish indefinite article, exclusion of article is done when used after the verb ser, if the noun used is related to a profession, a nationality, or a religion, among others. 
  • Soy profesor =I am a teacher.

  • Tienes una mascota. =You have a pet.

  • Ella es un musico. =She is a musician.

  • Tiene un elefante. =He has an elephant.

Some Void Rules for Articles in Spanish

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1. When used with an Unspecified Quantity (alguna, alguno or algunas, algunos)

When we talk about an unspecified quantity of something or any uncountable nouns, we use the qualifiers “some” or “any” in English. But in Spanish, you don’t need to use an article when talking about an indefinite amount or using an uncountable noun.
  • No hay fruta en la mesa. =There isn’t any fruit on the table.

  • Tengo unas hermosas flores en mi jardín. =I have some beautiful flowers in my garden.

  • Hay un poco de agua en el vaso. =There is some water in the glass.

  • No hay muchos espacios para estacionar en el garaje. =There are not many spaces for parking in the garage

When used with the Verb Tener (to have)

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Sometimes you do not use an article after the verb tener (to have) in Spanish
  • No tienes amigo =You don’t have a friend.

  • ¿Tienes un bolígrafo? =Do you have a pen?

  • Tengo el libro que pediste. =I have the book you asked for.

Accurate Usage of Articles in Spanish

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1. Use Definite Articles with Likes and Dislikes

In Spanish, you must use definite articles such as el, la, los, las when talking about common likes and dislikes. In English, we don’t mostly use these articles.
  • Le gustan las manzanas. =He likes apples.

  • Odio la comida china. =I hate Chinese foods.

  • A ellos les gusta el arte y la música. =They like art and music.

  • Odia las historias emocionales. =She hates emotional stories.

Use Definite Articles for Time

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In Spanish, time indicates feminine gender, and you always need to include the feminine definite article (la or las) when saying about time.

For Example
  • Ya son las 2 y media. =It’s already half past 2.

  • Son las 9:00 de la mañana. =It’s 9:00 in the morning.

  • El programa comienza a las 10. =The program begins at 10.

  • Llegará a las 4:30. =She will reach at 4:30.

  • El partido terminó en 12 a 3. =The match ended at 12 to 3.

Use Definite Articles with Days of the Week

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In Spanish, you must use a definite pronoun before the day of the week, when talking about something happening on a specific day of the week. The days of the week are always masculine, so you will use either el or los. 

When talking about one specific day of the week, use el whereas when talking about something habitual, or something that happens every week, you need to use los.
  • Va al parque todos los domingos. =He goes to the park every Sunday.

  • Esperamos conocerte el sábado. =We hope to meet you on Saturday.

  • Iré a Londres el próximo martes. =I will go to London next Tuesday.

  • Ellos no estarán allí hasta el lunes por la mañana. =They won’t be there until Monday morning.

Related Lessons in Advanced Course, to further your understanding.

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