The word lo can either be used as a neuter article, or as a pronoun. In this lesson we will focus on its use as an article.
Neuter articles are used to express abstract ideas or give extra emphasis to a certain adjective. As a neuter article, lo is the easiest of all the articles as there is only one form: lo. It can be placed in front of just about any adjective that expresses an abstraction or a quality (or extreme degree of quantity), something that's not a concrete object or person.
Here are some phrases that take lo before different types of adjectives:
lo bueno = "the good part, what's good"
lo fácil = "the easy part, what's easy"
lo mío = "(that which is) mine"
lo nuestro = "(that which is) ours"
Lo + adjective can be translated in English as "the" + adjective + the word "thing" or "part":
Y pues, es lo malo de vivir en un país así.
And well, it's the bad thing about living in a country like this.
Caption 68, Amigos D.F. - El secuestrarPlay Caption
Eso es lo bonito de la gastronomía.
That is the nice thing about gastronomy.
Caption 29, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoliPlay Caption
In fact, lo + adjective generates the syntactic equivalent of a noun phrase. That's why it's also common to translate it as "what is + adjective." In the previous examples, we would have:
Y pues, es lo malo de vivir en un país así / And well, it's what is bad about living in a country like this.
Eso es lo bonito de la gastronomía / That's what is nice about gastronomy.
The use of lo before a relative clause has a similar effect:
Hay gente que rectifica lo que dice
There are people who correct what they say
Caption 39, Calle 13 - No hay nadie como túPlay Caption
Lucio, tengo que contarte que por lo que me adelantó Morena...
Lucio, I have to tell you that from what Morena told me in advance...
Caption 57, Yago - 7 Encuentros - Part 14Play Caption
In fact, lo can often be taken to mean roughly la cosa or las cosas:
Hay gente que rectifica lo que dice. → There are people who correct what they say.
Hay gente que rectifica (las cosas) que dice. → There are people who correct (the things) they say.
...por lo que me adelantó Morena. → ...from what Morena told me.
...por (las cosas) que me adelantó Morena. → ...from (the things) that Morena told me.
By the way, lo can be used before a series of adjetives too:
Pero encontrar lo bueno, bonito y barato
But finding the good, [the] nice and [the] cheap
a veces es muy complicado.
is sometimes very complicated.
Captions 2-3, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricosPlay Caption
Of course, in order to help our subscribers with their learning process, we have made the translation here as parallel as possible. But you already know what would make a more natural translation, right?
→ But finding what's good, nice, and cheap is sometimes complicated.
→ But finding the good, nice, and cheap things is sometimes complicated.
There is yet one more use of lo as a neuter article and it's rather interesting. Lo is used to express the extreme degree or nature of a given concept or idea. Here it's best to review some examples:
¿Es que no eres todo lo feliz que desearías?
Is it that you are not as happy as you would like?
Caption 26, De consumidor a persona - Short FilmPlay Caption
Sometimes this lo equates to using the word “how”:
Si supieras lo mucho que te amo
If you knew how much I love you
Caption 15, Ozomatli - JardineroPlay Caption
Porque ves las gradas llenas, eh,
Because you see the packed bleachers, um,
la gente lo bien que se lo pasa con la música.
how much fun the people have with the music.
Captions 11-12, Los Juegos Olímpicos - Adrián GaviraPlay Caption
¿Pero cómo voy a perder mis maletas de vista
But how am I going to lose sight of my suitcases
con lo grandes que son?
with how big they are?
Captions 29-30, Raquel - Avisos de MegafoníaPlay Caption
Read more about the use of the neuter gender here.