Aritcles in Spanish Grammar

Introduction

Articles accompany nouns and indicate gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural). In Spanish grammar, there are indefinite articles (un, una, unos, unas) and definite articles (el/los, la/las, lo).

Learn the difference between Spanish articles and when to use them correctly with Lingolia’s grammar rules. In the exercises, you can practise using definite and indefinite articles.

Example

María es una amiga de Laura y la novia de Carlos.

María ha comprado un helado. El helado está rico.

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Table of definite and indefinite articles in Spanish

Definite Article Indefinite Article
Singular masculine el el trenthe train un un tren
feminine la

la estaciónthe station
el* águilathe eagle

una una estacióna station
un* águilaan eagle
neutral lo lo bonitothe cute (thing) -
Plural masculine los los trenesthe trains unos unos trenestrains
feminine las las estacionesthe stations
unas unas estacionesstations

Feminine nouns that start with a stressed a/ha, take the definite article el. This is done for ease of pronunciation. The noun and its complements remain feminine. In the plural, the feminine article las is used.

Example:
El águila ibérica es un animal en peligro de extinción. The Spanish imperial eagle is an endangered animal.
Las águilas son aves depredadoras.Eagles are predatory birds.
En esta zona se pueden avistar muchas águilas.In the area, you can spot many eagles.

Indefinite Articles

The masculine indefinite articles are un (singular) unos (plural). The feminine indefinite articles are una (singular) and unas (plural). We use the indefinite articles, similarly to the English indefinite articles a/an, in the following situations:

  • to mention something that is not specifically defined
    Example:
    María es una amiga de Laura.Maria is a friend of Laura’s.

    one of several friends

  • to mention an approximate quantity in plural
    Example:
    Estamos a unos 15 kilómetros de la costa. We are about 15 kilometres from the coast.
  • to describe specific characteristics of a person using a noun or adjective
    Example:
    Este niño es un ángel.This kid is an angel.
    Su hermano es un travieso.His brother is a naughty kid.
  • with the impersonal form of the verb haber: hay.
    Ejemplo:
    En el museo hay una exposición de las pinturas negras de Goya.In the museum, there is an exhibition of Goya’s black paintings.
    Junto a la chimenea había una mecedora.Next to the chimney there was a rocking chair.

Definite Articles

The masculine definite articles are el (singular) and los (plural). The feminine definite articles are la (singular) and las (plural). Sometimes the usage of the definite article in Spanish grammar is the same as the usage of the in English, but not always! The following list outlines when to use the definite article in Spanish.

We use el/los/la/las in the following cases:

  • with a noun the refers to a specific person or thing
    Example:
    El último disco del artista es buenísimo.The artist’s last album is very good.
  • with nouns that refer to something general
    Example:
    La fruta es la base de una dieta sana.Fruit is the basis of a healthy diet.
  • with the days of the week
    Example:
    El viernes no trabajo.I’m not working on Friday.
    but:
    Hoy es miércoles. Today is Wednesday
    (no article after the verb ser)
  • with instruments, games and sports after the verbs jugar and tocar
    Example:
    Toco el violín.I play the violin.
    Juego a las cartas con mi abuelo.I play cards with my grandfather.
    En este parque juegan los niños al fútbol.In this park, children play football.
  • with a reflexive verb to talk about parts of the body, instead of a possessive determiner
    Example:
    Me duele la espalda desde ayer.My back has been hurting since yesterday
  • to say the time
    Example:
    Son las dos y media.It’s half past two.
  • in titles
    Example:
    La Doctora Fernández ha ganado el premio Nobel de Medicina.Doctor Fernández has won the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
  • to refer to a family using their last name in plural
    Example:
    Los Pérez se han mudado.The Pérez family has moved.
  • with the names of mountains, rivers, lakes, seas and oceans
    Example:
    El Teide es el pico más alto de España.The Teide is the highest mountain peak in Spain.
  • with infinitives that function as nouns
    Example:
    El leer alimenta el alma.Reading feeds the soul.
  • with percentages
    Example:
    Ha aprobado el 95% de los alumnos.95% of the students passed the exam.

The neutral article “lo”

The definite article lo only exists in the singular and is never used before a noun (because there are no neutral nouns in Spanish). The article lo is used in the following cases:

  • before adjectives, participles, and ordinal numbers that are not followed by a noun.
    Example:
    interesante → lo interesanteinteresting - the interesting thing
    pasado → lo pasadopast - the past
    primero → lo primerofirst - the first
  • as an alternative to exclamations with qué + adjective/adverb
    Example:
    ¡Qué rica está la tarta de manzana! → ¡Lo rica que está la tarta de manzana!How delicious was the apple cake!
    ¡Qué rápido iba ese coche! → ¡Lo rápido que iba ese coche!How fast was that car!

No Article

We generally don’t use an article in Spanish:

  • with the verb ser + profession
Example:
Marta es ingeniera de caminos.Marta is a civil engineer.
but:
Marta es una ingeniera excelente.Marta is an excellent engineer.
use an article when the profession is described by a noun
  • with the verb ser + nationality or religious faith
Example:
Soy española.I am Spanish.
No soy católica.I am not catholic.
  • with unspecified quantities
Example:
¿Lleva huevo la ensalada?Is there egg in the salad?
En esa tienda venden televisores.In this shop, they sell televisions.
  • before names for individual people, organisations and places (cities, countries, regions), except when the definite article is part of the name i.e. the United Kingdom
Example:
Lorena trabaja en Oxfam en Grecia.Lorena works for Oxfam in Greece.
but not: La Loren trabaja en la Oxfam en la Grecia.
But:
Fátima vive en los Estados Árabes Unidos.Fátima lives in the United Arab Emirates
  • with ordinal numbers in titles
Example:
Alfonso X era conocido como Alfonso X «el Sabio».Alfonso X was known as Alfonso X “the Wise.”
  • with languages or school subjects, except when the form the subject of the sentence
Example:
Hablo japonés y ruso.i speak Japanese and Russian.
But:
El chino es un idioma precioso.Chinese is a beautiful language.
  • before the names of months
    Example:
    Febrero tiene 28 días.February has 28 days.
  • for seasons or means of transportation when used with the preposition en
    Example:
    en veranoin the summer
    ir en cocheto go by car
  • before otro, medio
    Example:
    Quiero otro café.
    Nos encontramos a medio día.We’re meeting at noon.
  • after llevar, tener
    Example:
    llevar gafasto wear glasses
    tener cocheto have a car

Articles and Prepositions “al/del”

The prepositions a/de and the masculine article el are usually combined into one word.

Example:
a + el = al
Vamos al supermercado.We’re going to the supermarket.
de + el = del
Es el libro del profesor.This is the teacher’s book.

However, a preposition cannot combine with the indefinite article.

Example:
Vamos a un espectáculo de flamenco.We’re going to a flamenco show.