The Definite Article
The definite articles in Spanish
are el, la, los, las
El combines with a
and de to form al and del:
|I am going to the movies.
I am leaving the movies.
don't have to contract a or de with el if the article
is part of a proper name, for example El Escorial: Yo
voy a El Escorial.
Articles agree in gender and
number with the nouns they acompany: el padre,
madre, los niños, las muchachas.
is only one exception: The masculine article el (and un)
is used before feminine nouns that begin with a- or ha- when
the first syllable of the noun carries the stress: el
fría (the cold water),
perdida (the lost soul), el
majestuosa (the majestic eagle), el
vieja (the old ax). If an adjective separates
el and the noun, however, the "normal article" la is used:
alma. The plural forms are regular:
aguas frías (the cold waters),
almas perdidas (the lost souls), las
águilas majestuosas (the majestic eagles),
hachas viejas (the old axes).
names of the letters a: la a
and hache: la hache,
as well as the city The Hague: La
Haya are not among the exceptions.
The word academia
(academy) is feminine. Do we say el academiaor
academia? (click here
for the answer)
As a general rule we can say
that the definite article is used more frequently in Spanish than
in English. The subject of a sentence has always an article. The following
are some situations where English does not use the definite article
|Terrorism has killed many
terrorismo a matado mucha gente inocente.
with concrete nouns used in
a general or generic sense (as representative of a class or group of things):
|Vegetables are good for
legumbres son buenas para la salud.
with body parts and clothing
items when it is obvious who the possessor is (instead of a possessive,
for example my, your, his, our, in English:
|My head hurts.
He puts on his coat..
duele la cabeza.
se pone el abrigo..
with tener + body parts
where in English there is no article at all:
|She has green eyes and blue
tiene los ojos verdes y el pelo azul.
with days of the week where
you use on in English:
|On Sundays I like
On Monday I have
to go back to work.
domingos me gusta descansar.
lunes tengo que volver al trabajo.
|It is three o' clock.
with nouns in a series the article
|The north, south, east and
west are the four main directions.
norte, el sur, el este y el oeste son las cuatro direcciones
with titles such as doctor,
etc. when referring to or talking
about a person:
|Miss Ramirez is sick.
señorita Ramírez está enferma.
profesor Sánchez está de vuelta.
article is NOT used, however when you talk to the person directly: "¿Cómo
está Ud., señor Pérez?"
with surnames, the masculine
article los is used (and the family name in singular, of course):
|Millers have a new car.
Miller tienen un coche nuevo.
with the names of languages
and study subjects, except after the preposition en and the verbs
(to speak), escribir (to write), estudiar
study), leer (to read), hablar (to speak),
(to teach) and aprender (to learn):
|Spanish is spoken by more
than 400 million people.
lo hablan más de 400 millones de personas.
|But: I speak/ teach/
enseño/ aprendo español.
with nouns of weight and measure:
|Bananas cost 300 Pesetas
My boss pays me 10 Dolars
plátanos cuestan 300 pesetas la libra.
jefe me paga 10 dólares la hora.
with nouns that follow gustar
or similar verbs (like encantar, faltar, molestar, etc.) because they represent
|I like tennis.
gusta el tenis.
in certain semi idiomatic adverbial
phrases where in English there is no article:
|I almost never go to church.
They took him to jail.
nunca voy a la iglesia.
llevaron a la cárcel.
with the names of certain countries
or cities: (Originally the names of countries were alll used with the article,
but there is a tendency in modern Spanish to follow the example of English
and to use countries without articles. Some examples where Spanish still
uses the article are el Brasil, el Canadá, el Ecuador, el Japón,
|Last year we went to Peru.
año pasado fuimos al Perú.
In contrast to English, the
article is not used with the numerical designation of rulers and dignitaries:
|Alfons the Thirteen.
Elizabeth the Second.
Charles the Fifth.
academia because the rule is that we use el only when
the first syllable carries the stress, which is not the case in academia.