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The Spanish definite article is sometimes confusing for beginning students, because it has to agree in gender and number with the noun it modifies, and it doesn’t always correspond to an article in other languages.
For me, it helps to remember that if you have a noun in Spanish, there is virtually always an article (either definite or indefinite) in front of it, unless you use a possessive (my, your, etc.) or a demonstrative (this, that) adjective. It is also vital that when you learn new vocabulary, you make sure to learn the gender of each noun, because the articles (as well as adjectives, pronouns, and just about everything else) change according to the gender of the noun.
The Spanish definite article corresponds with "the" in English. There are four Spanish definite articles.
Characteristics of definite articles
- Used with countable and uncountable nouns
- Placed directly in front of a noun or an adjective + noun
- Agree with the noun in gender and number
- May need to contract with certain prepositions
Spanish definite articles
Using definite articles
The definite article indicates a specific noun.
|Los pájaros están en el nido.||The birds are in the nest.|
|¿Dónde está el libro?||Where is the book?|
Contrarily, the definite article is also used in Spanish to indicate the general sense of a noun. The article is not used in this sense in English.
|Me gusta el café.||I like coffee.|
|¡Así es la vida!||That’s life!|
The masculine singular definite article changes when preceded by the preposition a or de: the preposition and article contract into a single word.
|a||al||a la||a los||a las|
|de||del||de la||de los||de las|
Think you’ve got it? Test yourself on Spanish articles with these fill-in-the-blanks exercises:
Note: You must be logged into your Progress with Lawless Spanish account to take these tests. If you don’t have one, sign up – it’s free!
Spanish lesson plans
- Definite Articles (Worksheet, 4th-8th grade)
- Definite and Indefinite Articles (Worksheet, 8th-9th grade)
- “La” versus “El” (Worksheet, 6th-12th grade)
- Sustantivos (PPT, 6th-12th grade)
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