In the thirteenth class of our Absolute Beginner Spanish course we are going to learn the basics of the Spanish articles, both the definite and the indefinite ones.
The definite article is the equivalent of the English article the, and is used to talk about things which are already known through context, because they have already been mentioned, etc.
While in English we have only the form the, in Spanish we need to use the form of the article which agrees with the noun it is introducing, both in gender and in number.
According to this, we have four forms of the Spanish definite article:
- el for masculine singular
- la for feminine singular
- los for masculine plural
- las for feminine plural
So we would say:
- el padre
- la madre
- los hijos
- las hermanas
As you can imagine, the indefinite article is the equivalent of the English article a/an, which is used when it is the first time we mention something or it is not known yet by the listener.
Also with indefinite articles, we must choose the form which agrees with the noun:
- un for masculine singular
- una for feminine singular
- unos for masculine plural
- unas for feminine plural
So we would say:
- un perro
- una gata
- unos caramelos
- unas manzanas
There is one important exception for both articles, which we have to apply only when all of the following factors appear:
- the article is followed by a noun
- the noun is feminine
- the noun is singular
- it begins with a stressed /a/
When all of these factors concur, we do not use the forms la o una, but el o un:
- el/un alma
- el/un hada
- la/una alumna
- la harina
- la alta torre
- las/unas almas
Using the articles
Actually, the most difficult part about articles is knowing when to use the definite or indefinite one. Luckily, there is a 90% similarity between Spanish and English, so this is not so hard.
Most of the times, you’ll use the Spanish definite or indefinite articles just in the same contexts you would in English.
However, there are some differences, most of which you have to learn as they appear. Take a look at these examples:
—Los españoles no son muy puntuales.
—El español es una lengua interesante.
—La belleza no es la característica más importante de las personas.
—Los perros necesitan más atención que los gatos.
Don’t worry about this. You’ll learn these cases little by little. We’re good for now!