Learning a language shouldn’t be a chore. One of the keys to successfully learning any language is finding ways to combine your passions with your language practice. Another key tip is repetition. But you might ask, what aspect of the language should I focus on?
Grammar is the glue that holds language together and ‘articles’ are highly important in any language, but especially in Spanish. Spanish articles are simple to learn, but in practice their usage can be a bit tricky for English speakers.
What Are Definite and Indefinite Articles?
Articles are words that refer to nouns.
In English, the is a definite article because it refers to a defined, specific object.
Give me the bread.
The house is on the corner.
The kale on that dish looks delicious
Similarly, in English, a and an are indefinite articles because they refer to a general idea of an object, rather than a specific object.
She has an older brother.
Would you like a drink?
I want a good job.
The first step to mastering the use of definite and indefinite articles in Spanish is to get the genders of nouns down to pat.
Genders in the Spanish Language
Like French, every noun in Spanish is allocated a gender, either male or female. So, when creating a sentence, you need to match the right variation of words. Sure, you could memorise each and every word, but that’s hardly efficient learning. Luckily, there are some simple rules to help you master the different genders of words.
- If it’s alive and the word ends in an -o, it’s male.
- If it’s alive and it ends in an -a, it’s female.
- If there’s a mix of female and male, the group as a whole is always masculine.
- If there’s a male noun that ends in a consonant, there’s usually a female version that ends in -a.
- Some professions have the same form for females and males. Only the article changes, based on the subject.
- Nouns that end in –sión, –ción, –dad, –tud and –umbre, are always feminine.
- Similarly, nouns that end in –ma, are always masculine.
With any set of rules and any language, there are always unique exceptions. However, these seven rules should give you a quick rundown of gender for Spanish nouns.
How Do Definite and Indefinite Articles Work in Spanish?
In Spanish, the definite article has four forms: el, la, los and las. When deciding which form to use, you must first identify both the number and gender of your noun.
Definite masculine singular: el
Definite masculine plural: los
Definite feminine singular: la
Definite feminine plural: las
For example, when using the Spanish definite article:
- Use el for singular, masculine nouns. El coche (the car), el queso (the cheese) el gato (the male cat).
- Use los for plural, masculine nouns. Los ojos (the eyes), los colores (the colors).
- Use la for singular, feminine nouns. La profesora (the female professor), la manzana (the apple), la chica (the girl).
- Use las for plural, feminine nouns. Las perras (the female dogs), las letras (the letters).
Now, let’s look at the Spanish indefinite articles:
Indefinite masculine singular: un
Indefinite masculine plural: unos
Indefinite feminine singular: una
Indefinite feminine plural: unas
- Use un for singular, masculine nouns. Un día (a day), un perro (a dog).
- Use unos for plural, masculine nouns. Unos estudiantes (some students), unos caballos (some horses).
- Use una for singular, feminine nouns. Una semana (a week), una hoja (a leaf).
- Use unas for plural, feminine nouns. Unas actrices (some actresses), unas mesas (some chairs).
Although Spanish articles and English articles are somewhat similar, there are a few tricky rules that differentiate Spanish article usage from English article usage.
When to drop the Spanish article?
- If you are discussing someone’s profession, religion, nationality, political ideology, or other roles such as ‘being a parent’, you need to drop the article in Spanish.
- If you are going to add a descriptive adjective with a noun, you have to include the Spanish article.
- When you are talking about a mode of transport in a general way then you need to omit the Spanish article.
- When you are talking about stuff in general, if you are talking about the things in a general way, especially if quantity is not important, you don’t use an article.
- If you aren’t talking about fixed plans and are talking about a date in general, you should drop the article.
When to include the Spanish article?
- While discussing a profession doesn’t require an article, if you are referring to someone by their profession, then you need to include an article.
- You’ll also have to include a Spanish article when referring to specific things.
- When you are talking about a car or a train as a physical location, then you need to include an article.
- With date and time, you usually need an article in Spanish. This rule might not come naturally since we rarely use articles with time in English. Furthermore, in English you usually use prepositions (on, at, by, etc.) with date and time, whereas in Spanish you need to use the Spanish definite articles (el, la, los, las).
- When you use the Spanish verb structure ‘verbs like gustar’, you will usually include a Spanish article.
At the Agape School of Education, we believe that the key to success is to maximise our students’ potential to learn. Our courses are customizable, and we offer exam-oriented courses for students. Therefore, we have specially designed in-house textbooks and materials to help our students learn efficiently and effectively. Finally, while we have numerous courses spanning different languages, for students and adults, our curriculum is always modifiable. So, should you require an MOELC-based course or one for business, we are here to help! Our curriculum is unique because we place importance not only on learning but also on inspiring and enjoying the learning process.
We do this because we know that inspiring a love of the language will breed passion in our students, which will lead them to realise their goals.