Spanish Definite Articles

Beginner Spanish - Level A1

Overview

Spanish definite articles indicate the gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural) of a noun. There are four definite articles in Spanish, and they often all translate to the same little word in English: the. There are also cases where they don't have a direct English translation but help to indicate the gender and number of a noun. A definite article always has to match both the gender and number of its noun.

If the noun is feminine and singular (like salsa), then the article also has to be feminine and singular (la salsa).

If that same noun is plural (like salsas) the article is also plural (las salsas).

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Spanish A1

 

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Definite Articles

First of all, what is a definite article? In English this is the word THE. We use this word in Spanish to modify nouns as well, but you will see they work a little differently.

In English we can say things like “the boy”, “the girl”, “the boys” and “the girls”. See how the word “the” never changed? In Spanish you will notice that we have to change definite article to match in both gender and number with the noun it is modifying.

In the chart below, you can see that there are different ways to say “the” based on whether the noun is singular or plural, masculine or feminine.

Being able to master correct article usage will help your Spanish sound more natural and coherent. Native speakers could understand what you are saying if you make a mistake, yet sometimes words can change meaning dependent on their gender and plurality.

Let’s take a look at the chart below to understand gender and plurality in Spanish. **note: there are words that we call “irregulars” that do not follow the general gender and/or number rules. For more information on this topic, see our modules regarding gender and plurality in Spanish.

 

Spanish English 
El  the (singular, masculine) 
 La  the (singular, feminine)
 Los the (plural, masculine) 
 Las the (plural, feminine) 

 

In English, a speaker can say: The dog eats meat.
The article, in this case, is “the”. This shows that when you are speaking of the dog, you have a specific dog in mind. The same rule applies to Spanish when using the definite article. 

Take a look at the examples of gender and number agreement below:

El niño - The boy

La niña - The girl

Los niños - The boys

Las niñas - The girls

El hombre - The man

La mujer - The woman

Los hombres - The men

Las mujeres - The women

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What is a definite article?

A definite article in Spanish indicates specificity when speaking of a noun.

In Spanish, the definite articles are el, la, los, and las which are all ways to say the English word “the”. You might ask, why are there so many? In Spanish, it is important to match gender and plurality to your nouns. In the chart below, you can see that there are different ways to say “the” when the noun is singular, plural, masculine, or feminine. Many nouns will also have corresponding genders and spelling changes when put in a plural form.

Being able to master correct article usage will help your Spanish sound more natural and coherent. Native speakers could understand what you are saying if you make a mistake, yet sometimes words can change meaning dependent on their gender and plurality.

Sometimes there are exceptions to the gender and plurality rules. However, the chart below explains the general basics needed to understand Spanish Definite Articles. For more information on this topic, see our modules regarding gender and plurality in Spanish.


Spanish Definite Article

In English, a speaker can say: The dog eats meat.
The article, in this case, is “the”. This shows that when you are speaking of the dog, you have a specific dog in mind. The same rule applies to Spanish when using the definite article. 

El niño The boy               La niña The girl

Los niños The boys         Las niñas The girls

El hombre The man         La mujer The woman

Los hombres The men     Las mujeres The women

Let’s practice! Choose the best answer below. Click READ MORE below to see the answer key! 

1. Do all Spanish definite articles translate to “the”?
   a. Yes
   b. No

2. What do Spanish definite articles do?
   a. Help beginning language learners sound more fluent
   b. Indicate specificity directed towards the noun
   c. Indicates generalization of the noun
   d. Both a. and b.

3. True or False? In Spanish...
   a. …you must match gender and nouns.
   b. …you should not match plurality and nouns.
   c. … words can change meaning when gender and plurality are not accurately stated.

4. Match the definite article to Its correct plurality: Singular (S) or Plural (P)
  
 a. El
   b. Los                       
   c. Las                       
   d. La

5. Match the definite article to its correct gender: Masculine (M) or Feminine (F)
   a. Las
   b. El
   c. La
   d. La

6. ______ perro

   a. Las
   b. El
   c. La
   d. Los

7. ______ gatos

   a. Las
   b. El
   c. La
   d. Los

8. ______ manzana

   a. Las
   b. El
   c. La
   d. Los

9. ______ carpetas

   a. Las
   b. El
   c. La
   d. Los

10. ______ zapatos

   a. Las
   b. El
   c. La
   d. Los

Answer Key:
1. A, 2. D, 3. a. True, b. False, c. True, 4. a. (S), b. (P), c. (P), d. (S), 5. a. (F), b. (M), c. (F), d. (M), 6. B, 7. D, 8. C, 9. A, 10. D

1. Do all Spanish definite articles translate to “the”?
   a. Yes
   b. No

2. What do Spanish definite articles do?
   a. Help beginning language learners sound more fluent
   b. Indicate specificity directed towards the noun
   c. Indicates generalization of the noun
   d. Both a. and b.

3. True or False? In Spanish...
   a. …you must match gender and nouns.
   b. …you should not match plurality and nouns.
   c. … words can change meaning when gender and plurality are not accurately stated.

4. Match the definite article to Its correct plurality: Singular (S) or Plural (P)
  
 a. El
   b. Los                       
   c. Las                       
   d. La

5. Match the definite article to its correct gender: Masculine (M) or Feminine (F)
   a. Las
   b. El
   c. La
   d. La

Answers:
1. A.,
2. D.,
3. a. True, b. False, c. True,
4. a. (S), b. (P), c. (P), d. (S),
5. a. (F), b. (M), c. (F), d. (M).

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