Definite and indefinite articles

Introduction

Like English, Spanish, has definite and indefinite articles. Definite articles in English is the, while indefinite is a/an.
In Spanish articles changes depending on whether nouns are masculine or feminine, singular or plural. So you need to take more care when and how to use definite and indefinite articles.

Articles

Number Gender Definite Indefinite
singular masculine el un
feminine la una
plural masculine los unos
feminine las unas
english the a/an




Definite vs indefinite article

Principle of when to use each of them is same as in English but in Spanish we need to take care of gender and number too.
The difference between the definite and indefinite articles is the difference between talking about a specific thing or not a specific thing. For example:

  • Bring me the car.
  • Bring me a car.

In the first sentence we are asking for the specific car and in second any car will be fine.

When we are talking about i.e. cat in Spanish we can use one of the following sentences. Note that each of sentences below has different meaning.

  • el gato (the specific male cat)
  • la gata (the female cat)
  • los gatos (the male cats, the specific)
  • las gatas (the female cats)
  • un gato (a male cat)
  • una gata (a female cat)
  • unos gatos (some male cats, or a mixed grup)
  • unas gatas (some female cats)

When we are talking about cat we need to use proper article depending of gender and number.

Also note that we are using male plural if we have mixed gender, so for example if we have one male and female cat. This principle is used in Spanish language always when we have mixed gender in plural. Even if we have one male and thousand female cats, we will use masculine form los/unos gatos.




Tips

In Spanish article is never used in front of jobs. Example:

  • Angel es dentista (Angel is a dentist)
  • Mi hijo es estudiante (My son is a student)

But this is only when talking about our or someones job, but when we want to say something about some jobs, i.e. students, police etc. we will use article:

  • Los estudiantes estudian mucho (The students study a lot)
  • ¿Cuáles son las funciones de la policía? (What are the police tasks?)

Indefinite article un/una can mean one or a/an.Example:

  • un libro (a book, one book)
  • una casa (a house, one house)

In English it is often correct to leave out the article but in Spanish this is not often the case.

  • La vida en Madrid es muy interesante. (Life in Madrid is very interesting)

In Spanish you will always use article in front like in example above, leaving it will be wrong. While in English you don’t need to use it.

Hope this post helps you with proper usage of definite and indefinite articles. If you are interested in learning more of Spanish, check our articles about Spanish accents here.

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Marko Vucak Author

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