Use of the Spanish Article  

Spanish Grammar Definite and Indefinite Articles

The Definite Article is used in Spanish -and not in English- on the following:

1. Before the seasons of the year:

  • La primavera (spring)
  • El verano (summer)
  • El otoño (autumn)
  • El invierno (winter)

And the four cardinal points:

  • El norte (North)
  • El este (East)
  • El sur (South)
  • El oeste (West)

2. Before the hour of the day (with the words hora, horas, understood), as:

  • Es la una: It is one o'clock.
  • Son las dos y cuarto: It is a quarter past two.
  • Son las tres y cinco: It is five minutes past three.
  • Son las cuatro menos diez: It is ten minutes to four.
  • Las cinco y media: Half-past five.

3. Optionally, before the proper name of a woman used colloquially, as:

  • La Maria (Mary, our Mary).

4. Optionally, before the days of the week, especially when preceded by "on" in English, as:

  • Vendré el sábado: I shall come on Saturday.

5. Regularly, before the names of the following countries:

  • El Perú
  • La India
  • El Japón

And some towns to be learnt by practice, as:

  • La Coruña
  • El Havre
  • El Cairo
  • El Ferrol
  • etc.

Although found sometimes before the names of countries in general, this example should not be followed.

The Definite Article is used in English and not in Spanish:

1. Before numbers following names of sovereigns, etc., as:

  • Carlos I (primero), Charles I (the first)
  • Alfonso XIII (trece), Alphonso XIII (the thirteenth)

2. In titles of books, headings, etc., as:

  • Historia de la Inquisición (The History of the Inquisition).

3. Before words in apposition, as:

  • Madrid, capital de España (Madrid, the capital of Spain).

But:

  • Alfonso el Sabio (Alphonso the Wise)
  • Juana la Loca (Jane the Mad)

because these are "titles."

The Indefinite Article is used in English and not in Spanish (besides rules in Lesson II):

1. Before words in apposition, as:

  • Rubio y Cía., casa importantísima de la Habana: Rubio & Co., a most important firm in Havana.

2. In titles of books, headings, etc., as:

  • Lista de los géneros pedidos: A list of goods required.

3. In "such a," "so ... a," as:

  • Tal amigo: Such a friend.
  • Tan buen amigo: So good a friend, such a good friend.

4. In "a half" (medio), "a quarter" (cuarto), "a third" (tercio), in the case of an integer preceding, as:

  • Uno y medio (1-1/2)
  • Dos y cuarto (2-1/4)
  • Cinco y tercio (penknife/3)

Occasionally the article is omitted before other fractions.

5. Before otro, as:

  • Otra quiebra: Another bankruptcy.

Before weights and measures the definite article is used in Spanish instead of the indefinite used in English, as:

  • Dos chelines la libra: Two shillings a pound.
  • Cinco pesetas el metro or por metro: 5 pesetas a metre.

The Definite Article is omitted before casa and palacio when they are spoken of as places usually frequented by the person in question:

  • Iré á casa del ingeniero: I shall go to the engineer's house.
  • El Rey volvió ayer a palacio: The King returned yesterday to the palace.

The article must not be employed before a noun used after a preposition in an adjectival capacity, as:

  • Una viga de hierro (not del hierro): An iron beam.

The tendency of the Spanish language is to omit the indefinite article whenever, by such omission the sense is not obscure, as:

  • Tengo intención de marcharme: I have a mind to go.
  • Vino con dolor de cabeza: He came with a headache.
  • Le dió cuenta de lo sucedido: He gave him an account of all that had happened.
  • Este caballero tiene mucho or grande ingenio: This gentleman has a great talent.

The Neuter article "lo" cannot precede a noun used as such, but it may (elegantly) precede a noun used adjectively, as:

  • Todo me gusta en el, lo amigo, lo ciudadano, lo caballero: I like everything in him: the friend, the citizen, the gentleman.
Pronunciation guide to the Spanish alphabet



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