Let’s talk about articles. In this lesson, we will review this basic but very important ingredient of the Spanish language. We'll begin this lesson by discussing what an article is, and then look at the two main groups of articles we have in Spanish.
An article is a word that we use in Spanish to specify the gender and number of a noun. Articles also tell us how specific a noun is and that’s why they can be definite or indefinite. Finally, we always put articles before a noun.
If that sounds too complicated, let’s see how the Cambridge Dictionary defines the word article: “Any of the English words "a," "an," and "the," or words in other languages that are used in a similar way as these.” With that being said, let’s take a look at definite and indefinite articles in Spanish.
Definite articles in English are easy. In fact, we only have one definite article: the. On the contrary, we have four different definite articles in Spanish: el, la, los, las. Let’s see them in action:
El niño (the boy) - We use ‘el’ to indicate that the noun is singular and masculine.
La niña (the girl) - We use ‘la’ to indicate that the noun is singular and feminine.
Los niños (the boys) - We use ‘los’ to indicate that the noun is plural and masculine.
Las niñas (the girls) - We use ‘las’ to indicate that the noun is plural and feminine.
Keep in mind, however, that if you are referring to a group where you have both male and female elements, we need to use the masculine article ‘los’. In fact, in those cases we need to use the plural form of the masculine noun:
A group of 4 male friends: los amigos (the friends)
A group of 4 female friends: las amigas (the friends)
A group of 2 male friends and 2 female friends: los amigos (the friends)
Hoy tengo clase con los alumnos principiantes de español.
Today I have class with the beginner Spanish students.
Caption 5, Español para principiantes - La horaPlay Caption
In the example above, we use the article los with the word alumnos (students) but the speaker is very likely referring to a group of both male and female students.
We also have the neuter definite article lo but if you want a further explanation about this very particular article, please check the lesson about this topic HERE.
In English, we have the indefinite articles “a” and “an.” On the other hand, we have four indefinite articles in Spanish that we use to specify the gender and number of the noun they precede. These articles are un, una, unos and unas:
Un perro (a dog) - We use ‘un’ to indicate that the noun is singular and masculine.
Una serpiente (a snake) - We use ‘una’ to indicate that the noun is singular and feminine.
Unos perros (some dogs) - We use ‘unos’ to indicate that the noun is plural and masculine.
Unas serpientes (some snakes) - We use ‘unas’ to indicate that the noun is plural and feminine.
Let’s look at a couple of sentences more with indefinite articles in Spanish:
Compré un regalo para unos amigos.
I bought a gift for some friends.Play Caption
In this sentence, we use the article unos with the noun amigos (friends). However, just as it happens with the definite article los, we use the indefinite article unos when referring to groups that may include both male and female elements. In this case, some friends could easily include both male and female friends.
¿Unas entradas para ver un musical?
Some tickets to see a musical?
Caption 35, Blanca y Mariona - Planificación de cenaPlay Caption
In this example, both nouns are indefinite so the girls use the corresponding indefinite articles. If the girls had known some specific information about the tickets and the musical, they would have used definite articles:
That's it for now. If you are aware of the gender and number variables that nouns have in Spanish, you will be on your way to using definite and indefinite articles in Spanish like a pro. We hope you find this lesson useful and don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.