Learn Spanish Definite Article   By Ron Slone

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Definite Article

There are four forms: el, la, los, las:
la clase • el reloj • los cuadernos • las plumas

A. USAGE OF THE DEFINITE ARTICLE. Spanish uses it more often than English:

A1. Before nouns intended in a general sense and all abstract nouns:
Los mexicanos adoran las fiestas. Mexicans love parties.
La gente piensa que el dinero es vital. People think that money is vital.
La libertad es esencial en la vida. Liberty/freedom is essential in life.
Me gusta el pescado.
Me interesa la política. I like fish.
I am interested in politics.

A2. Before languages, illnesses, sports, sciences and other fields of knowledge:
El inglés es fácil. Así es la biología. Lucha contra el cáncer. Le interesa el fútbol.
BUT: The article is often omitted after the prepositions de and en and after the verbs hablar, estudiar, tener and saber: El libro está en español. Me gusta la clase de alemán. No hablo francés.

A3. Before titles when speaking about someone:
El escritor mexicano Octavio Paz ganó el premio Nóbel en 1992.
El señor García habla con el coronel Páez sobre la reina Isabel. (sobre: about)
BUT the article is not used when the person is addressed by their title:"Buenos días, señor García."

A4. Before the words cama, escuela, colegio, trabajo, guerra, cárcel, ciudad, iglesia, and clase:
No piensan en el trabajo. Están en la cárcel. Leen para la clase. Vivo en la ciudad de México.
(except in stock phrases such as “at war”: en guerra, or “in class”: en clase).

A5. Apart from the names of a few countries and cities (la República Dominicana, Los Ángeles, La Paz, El Salvador, etc.) the article is also used when the name of a country is qualified by an adjective:
La España turística, el Perú moderno.

B. CONTRACTIONS AL AND DEL

The prepositions a and de contract with the masculine singular article to form the only two written contractions in Spanish, al and del. These two contractions are mandatory:
al norte (a + el) del planeta (de + el)

C. OTHER PECULARITIES IN THE USE OF ARTICLES

C1. Articles, either definite or indefinite, are not used when there is an idea of amount or quantity (if the words “any” or “some” can be inserted in English):
Hay gente que no come carne. There are (some) people who do not eat (any) meat.
Pedimos vino y nos dan agua. We ask for (some) wine and they give us water.
Viven sin libertad, pero con dinero. They live without (any) freedom but with (some) money.
Leo libros con frecuencia. I read (a number of) books frequently.
Quieren uvas para el desayuno. They want grapes for breakfast.
Tiene éxito sin esfuerzo. She succeeds without (any) effort.

Note that hay (there is/are) always indicates a certain quantity, so it is never followed by the definite article: Hay conflictos y no hay libertad. Hay un problema.

C2. Occasionally, unos/­as expresses "some" when it means "a few," “a number of” or “about” (but algunos/as is a more common way to express some. See §17). Use un poco de (a little) before mass nouns:
Todavía tengo unos dólares.
Hay unas diez personas. I still have some (a few) dollars.
There are some (about) ten people.
Quieren unas peras y un poco de agua. They want a few pears and some water.

C3. Spanish has a neuter article, lo, used with an adjective (the masculine singular form) to express abstract concepts. Its meaning is very much like the English “the+adjective+thing”:
Eso es lo interesante. That is the interesting element.
Lo malo es que nos gusta. The bad thing about it is that we like it.
Lo bueno, lo malo y lo feo de la vida. The good, the bad, and the ugly in life.
Lo difícil de los idiomas es la gramática. The difficult part of languages is grammar.




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