The Spanish Article  

Definite and Indefinite Article

The Definite Article in Spanish is

El - before a masculine noun singular
La - before a feminine noun singular

as:

El hombre (the man)--La mujer (the woman)
El libro (the book)--La pluma (the pen)

El recibo (the receipt)--La cuenta (the account)

Los - before a masculine noun plural
Las - before a feminine noun plural

as:

Los muchachos (the boys)--Las señoras (the ladies)
Los géneros (the goods)--Las facturas (the invoices)
Los lápices (the pencils)--Las cartas (the letters).

Spanish nouns are all masculine or feminine. There are no neuter nouns.

The Indefinite Article is:

Un - before a masculine noun singular
Una - before a feminine noun singular

as:

Un amigo (a friend)--Una amiga (a lady-friend)
Un padre (a father)--Una madre (a mother)

The Indefinite Article has no plural, but the Spanish plural forms
"unos" (masc.) and "unas" (fem.) translate the English words "some" or
"any," as Unos hermanos (some brothers), Unas hermanas (some sisters),
Unos tinteros (some inkstands), Unas mesas (some tables). (The Spanish
words "Algunos," "Algunas," are also used for the same purpose.)

Before a feminine noun singular commencing with "a" or "ha"
use El and Un instead of "La" and "Una" if such nouns are stressed
on the first syllable
, as El águila (the eagle), El agua (the water),
El alma (the soul). The plural is regular, as Las águilas (the
eagles).
The Definite Article has a "neuter form" which is Lo. It
cannot be used before a noun
but before other parts of speech used to
represent an abstract idea, as Yo amo lo bello (I love the beautiful,
viz., all that which is beautiful), Lo sublime (the sublime, viz., all
that which is sublime).
Use of the Article with Prepositions
The definite article "El" is contracted with the preposition "de" (of or
from) into Del and with the preposition "A," into "al" as:

  • Del extranjero: Of "or" from the foreigner.
  • Al caballero español: To the Spanish gentleman.

These are the only contractions that occur in Spanish; with the other
prepositions the article simply follows, as:

  • by the father - por el padre
  • for the father - para el padre
  • with the father - con el padre
  • in the father - en el padre
  • on the father - sobre el padre
  • without the father - sin el padre
  • behind the father - tras el padre

The following are the principal cases in which the definite article is
used in Spanish and not in English:

  1. Before nouns taken in a general sense, as:

    El oro y la plata: Gold and silver.
    Los hombres ó las mujeres: Men or women.

  2. Before titles denoting dignity and profession, as[1]:

    El Señor Fulano: Mr. So-and-So.
    El Rey Jorge V.: King George V.
    El Profesor Rosales: Professor Rosales.

    The only exception is "Don" (Mr.), only used before Christian names, as
    Don Francisco (Mr. Francis).

  3. Generally before each of several nouns following each other when they
    are material possessions, as:

    La casa y el jardín de mi hijo: My son's[2] house and garden.
    Las puertas y las ventanas de mi casa: The doors and windows of my
    house.

    But:

    La diligencia, devoción, y virtud de mi primo: the diligence, devotion
    and virtue of my cousin.

  4. Before a proper noun qualified by an adjective, as:

    El valiente Juan: Brave John.[3]


The following are the principal cases in which the indefinite article is
used in English and not in Spanish:

  1. Before a noun following the verb "to be," or other similar verbs,
    as--

    Es capitán[4]: He is a captain.
    Soy francés: I am a Frenchman.
    Se hizo actor: He became an actor.
    Le elegimos miembro de esta sociedad: We elect him a member of this
    society.
    Fué elegido miembro: He was elected a member.

  2. After "what" used in exclamations, as: Qué hermosa vista: What a fine
    view!

  3. Before "hundred" and "thousand": 100--ciento, 1,000--mil.
Footnote 1: Except when vocative, viz., calling a person or as an
exclamation.
Footnote 2: The 's = possessive does not exist in Spanish. "My son's
house" must always be translated as "the house of my son."
Footnote 3: Except when vocative, viz., calling a person or as an
exclamation.
Footnote 4: Except, of course, when we particularize, as--Es un capitán
que conocí en Paris: He is a captain I knew in Paris.



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