Articles in Spanish can be confusing, even annoying. It makes sense because there are only two articles in English: “The” and “A”. Yet there are four ways of saying “the” in Spanish, and four ways of saying “a”. Why, when and how to use all these articles is simpler than you think, and important to learn when learning to speak Spanish.
Articles are words that define a noun as specific or unspecific. Consider the following examples:
After the long day, the cup of tea tasted particularly good.
By using the article “the”, we’ve shown that it was one specific day that was long and one specific cup of tea that tasted good. That’s why “the” is called a definite article.
After a long day, a cup of tea tastes particularly good.
By using the article a, we’ve created a general statement, implying that any cup of tea would taste good after any long day. That’s why a is called an indefinite article.
Gender in the Spanish language
That’s all beautiful. The thing is that in Spanish every single noun has a gender: feminine or masculine. “A chair” is feminine, but “a bench” is masculine. If you have studied some Spanish you are painfully aware of this.
Like nouns, articles in Spanish also have genders. But it doesn’t stop there, in addition to gender, all articles in Spanish also have a plural form. There is no plural for “the” in English, it stays the same whether we are talking about “the chair” or “the chairs.” But there is a plural form for “a”: “a chair,” “some chairs.”
|THE chair||THE chair|
|A chair||SOME chairs|
Articles in Spanish take on both the gender and the number of the noun. That’s why there are so many ways of saying “the” and “a” in Spanish. Let’s see them in action.
How to say THE in Spanish: The definite article (EL, LA)
In Spanish the definite article “the” must agree in gender with the noun:
|The bench||EL banco|
|The chair||LA silla|
The definite article “the” must also agree with the noun in number:
|The benches||LOS bancos|
|The chairs||LAS sillas|
Not too bad, right? But you might be wondering how to know when something is masculine or feminine… It isn’t so simple but it gets better with time and after a while you really start to get a feel for it.
Follow this link for no fail rules on how to determine when a noun is feminine or masculine
How to say A in Spanish: The indefinite article (Un, Una)
Just like with definite articles, in Spanish the indefinite article “a” must also agree with the noun in both gender and number:
|A bench||UN banco|
|A chair||UNA silla|
Note that “uno” only refers to the number 1, and it never replaces the indefinite article a. Whether we are talking about “a bench” or “one bench”, we use the same article: un banco.
What about the plural forms?
|Some benches||UNOS bancos|
|Some chairs||UNAS sillas|
You can imagine how this gets confusing. And this is only the beginning, adjectives must agree with the nouns as well… it’s a whole world!! At Fluenz we take it step by step. We do not throw all the rules at our students straight away but rather start introducing new forms and concepts once the previous ones have been cemented.
We only work with singular nouns at first. Then, once you have those down, we introduce the plurals and so forth.
Let’s see if you can use the correct articles for the following nouns.
Try using all of the different articles: definite and indefinite, singular and plural.
|The juice||jugo||EL jugo|
|The juices||jugos||LOS jugos|
|A juice||jugo||UN jugo|
|Some juices||jugos||UNOS jugos|
|The coffee||café||EL café|
|The coffees||cafés||LOS cafés|
|A coffee||café||UN café|
|Some coffees||cafés||UNOS cafés|
|The restaurant||restaurante||EL restaurante|
|The restaurants||restaurantes||LOS restaurantes|
|A restaurant||restaurante||UN restaurante|
|Some restaurants||restaurantes||UNOS restaurantes|
|The taxi||taxi||EL taxi|
|The taxis||taxis||LOS taxis|
|A taxi||taxi||UN taxi|
|Some taxis||taxis||UNOS taxis|
|The man||hombre||EL hombre|
|The men||hombres||LOS hombres|
|A man||hombre||UN hombre|
|Some men||hombres||UNOS hombres|
|The table||mesa||LA mesa|
|The tables||mesas||LAS mesas|
|A table||mesa||UNA mesa|
|Some tables||mesas||UNAS mesas|
|The street||calle||LA calle|
|The streets||calles||LAS calles|
|A street||calle||UNA calle|
|Some streets||calles||UNAS calles|
|The city||ciudad||LA ciudad|
|The cities||ciudades||LAS ciudades|
|A city||ciudad||UNA ciudad|
|Some cities||ciudades||UNAS ciudades|
|The flower||flor||LA flor|
|The flowers||flores||LAS flores|
|A flower||flor||UNA flor|
|Some flowers||flores||UNAS flores|
|The woman||mujer||LA mujer|
|The women||mujeres||LAS mujeres|
|A woman||mujer||UNA mujer|
|Some women||mujeres||UNAS mujeres|