Articles - Definite / Indefinite (the and a in English)
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  Verb Tenses  
    An introduction to verbs & personal pronouns  
    Verbs - Ser (to be) Estar (to be)  
    The present simple tense - regular verbs (I am)  
    The present simple tense - irregular verbs (I am)  
    The past simple tense - regular verbs (I was)  
    The past simple tense - irregular verbs (I was)  
    The imperfect tense - all verbs (I used to)  
    The future tense - all verbs (I will be)  
    The continuous tenses (I am going)  
    The perfect tenses - regular and irregular verbs  
    The conditional tense - regular and irregular verbs  
    The present subjunctive tense  
    The past subjunctive tense (If I were to)  
    The infinitive tense (verbs in their original forms - to be)  
    The imperative tense (command verbs - go / stay etc)  
    'Haber' with the conditional and past subjunctive tenses  
  More About Verbs  
    Reflexive verbs - Part 1  
    Reflexive verbs - Part 2  
    The 'Gerund' (the equivalent of forming 'ing...' verbs)  
    'Gustar' and similar verbs - A different way of using verbs  
Spain v Latin America
  All About Articles  
    Articles - definite / indefinite ('the' and 'a' in English)  
  All About Nouns  
    Nouns - Part 1 - (Masculine or feminine?)  
    Nouns - Part 2 - (Gender and forming plural nouns)  
  All About Adjectives  
    Adjectives - (Agreement and word order)  
    Adjectives - (Comparative and superlative)  
  All About Pronouns  
    Pronouns - object pronouns (direct / indirect)  
  Adjectives & Pronouns  
    Adjectives and Pronouns (demonstrative)  
    Adjectives and Pronouns (possessive)  
    Adjectives and pronouns (indefinite)  
  All About Adverbs  
    Adverbs - Part 1 - (words ending in -ly in English)  
    Adverbs - Part 2 - (Other forms / making comparisons)  
    An introduction to prepositions and relative pronouns  
    Prepositions - A comprehensive list with examples  
    Conjunctions - linking words  
  Questions & Negatives  
    Questions and negatives (question words)  

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Video Lesson
Summary of Lesson
Articles explained. What the differences between the two main types of articles are and a look at when they are used in both Spanish and English.
Looking specifically at definite articles and how they are used with the prepositions 'a' and 'de'. Looking at definite articles and how they are used with certain place names.
Looking at situations where the definite article is used in Spanish but not in English.
A closer look at indefinite articles. Using indefinite articles in Spanish where in English they are not used.
A look at the article 'lo'. When and how it is used in Spanish.
  What you can learn from this lesson
To understand the differences between the definite and indefinite articles. Knowing what they are in Spanish and English and how they are used with nouns.
Knowing the basic rules which dictate which article should be used with different types of nouns. Appreciating how important it is to learn the gender of newly learnt nouns!
Understanding how the definite article is used with certain place names. (It is used with some names but not others.)
Being aware of the most common sentence structures and situations where articles are used in Spanish but not in English and vice versa.
Understanding how and when the article 'lo' is used in Spanish. Understanding why the more usual types of articles are not used instead.
101 Languages
Berlitz Spanish



The first part of this lesson explains what articles are and how they are used in both Spanish and English.


An article is the name given to a word that is usually placed before a noun or noun phrase in order to identify it. The following are the articles we use in English:


definite article the dog or apple used before all singular nouns
definite article the dogs or apples used before all plural nouns
indefinite article a dog used before singular nouns beginning with a consonant
indefinite article an apple used before singular nouns beginning with a vowel
indefinite article some or any dogs or apples used before all plural nouns


In Spanish articles are used a little differently. The choice of article is dependant on two things; the gender of the noun and whether it is singular or plural. All Spanish nouns take a gender. We must know the gender of a noun in order to decide what article to use with it. For this reason it is very important to learn the gender of all new nouns that you learn. For much more information about nouns and gender take a look at the separate lessons on nouns.


Spanish articles


article type article used noun gender singular or plural translation
definite el perro masculine singular the dog
definite la vaca feminine singular the cow
definite los perros masculine plural the dogs
definite las vacas feminine plural the cows
indefinite un perro masculine singular a dog
indefinite una vaca feminine singular a cow
indefinite unos perros masculine plural some or any dogs
indefinite unas vacas feminine plural some or any cows




The second part of this lesson looks at how the definite article is used with the prepositions a and de. It then looks at when the definite article is used with certain place names.


Using the definite article with the prepositions a and de


If either of the prepositions a or de come before the masculine singular article el, the resulting pronunciation sounds odd. For this reason the prepositions and articles are combined together. The resulting pronunciation is much clearer.


a el banco incorrect so becomes al banco to the bank
(Yo) cogí a el tren. incorrect so becomes (Yo) cogí al tren I caught the train
de el mercado incorrect so becomes del mercado

from / of the bank

de el mar incorrect so becomes del mar from / of the sea


Place names


In Spanish the names of some countries and cities take a definite article and some don’t. In English no article is used. Each place name in Spanish needs to be learnt individually. The following are some examples of where definite articles are used.

el Brasil Brasil
el Canadá Canada
el Ecuador Ecuador
la Florida Florida
la Habana Havana
la India India
el Japón Japan
el Paraguay Paraguay
el Perú Peru


Note: If a geographical location or country name is made up of more than one word then the place name usually takes a definite article. This sometimes occurs in English too.


los Estados Unidos  The United States
la Gran Bretaña Great Britain
la América del norte North America




Part three of the lesson looks at when the definite article is usually used in Spanish but not in English.


In general the definite article is used in Spanish much more than it is in English. If a Spanish sentence contains a noun there is a very high probability that an article of some sort will be used with that noun. In English this is not always the case.

When the definite article is used in Spanish but not in English


1)      When talking about dates, times and meals.


Son las tres y veinte. Its three twenty.
Vamos el martes que viene.  Lets go this Tuesday.
¿A que hora es la cena?   What time is dinner?


2)      When talking about colours or parts of the body. Parts of the body are not referred to in a possessive way (my, our and your), like they are in English. Instead the definite article is usually used (el, los, la and las - the).


¿A ti te gusta el verde?  Do you like green?
Me duelen los brazos.  My arms hurt. (Literallythe arms they hurt me.)


Note: To learn more about the verb doler and how it is used to talk about parts of the body take a look at the separate lesson on Gustar and similar verbs.


3)      When referring to certain places where in English the prepositions in or at might be used.


en la escuela at school
en el trabajo at work
en el hospital in hospital
en la cama in bed


4)      When talking about people that have a title in their name.


El señor Alvarez estaba aquí. Mr Avarez was here.
El profesor Caceres me dijo.  Profesor Caceres told me.


Note: In English a capital letter is always used with names (proper nouns). This is not always the case in Spanish. Take a look at the lesson on nouns part 1 to learn more.


5)      When talking about the things we do and don’t like. (The names of sports and games are used with the definite article generally.)


Me gusta el fútbol. I like football.
A él le encanta el pescado. He loves fish.
¿No te gusta el ron? Don’t you like rum?


6)      Whenever a noun is used at the start of a sentence.


La olla está rebosando. The saucepan is overflowing.
Los chanchos huelen.   Pigs smell.


7)      When referring to abstract nouns. (For more information on noun types take a look at the lesson on nouns part 1.)


(Yo) pienso que la felicidad es más importante. I think happiness is more important.
La fe es una cuestión de opinión Faith is a question of opinion.



The fourth part of this lesson looks at how indefinite articles are used in both Spanish and English. Indefinite articles are used in much more of a similar way in both Spanish and English than definite articles are, but there are still some differences.


When the indefinite article is not used in Spanish but is usually used in English


1)      When saying what we do. What are professions are. (Not when used with adjectives)


Soy técnico.   I’m a technician.
Mi primo es camarero.   My cousin is a waiter.
Soy un técnico hábil. (adjective used)   I’m a skillfull technician.


2)      With certain words as follows:


cierto/a cien mil sin qué (not que)
a certain a hundred a thousand without what



(Yo) conozco cierto hombre.  I know a certain man.
Dame cien gramos por favor.  Give me (I'll have), a hundred grams please.
Ellos gobernaron por mil años.  They ruled for a thousand years.
Él llegó sin guía.   He arrived without a guide.
¡Que sorpresa!  What a surprise.


Note: In English the words without and what can be used without an indefinite article too (without hope - sin esperanza / what time? - ¿A qué hora?).


3)      With certain verbs indefinite articles are sometimes not used as follows: (They ARE used with nouns and adjectives togther.)


tener to have buscar to look for


Él no tiene dinero.   He hasn’t got any money.
Ellos no tienen una casa.  They don't have a house.
(Yo) busco apartamento.   I’m looking for an apartment.


(Yo) busco un apartamento limpio. (adjective used) I’m looking for a clean apartment.




The final part of this lesson looks at the Spanish article lo. This article is used in Spanish in only specific situations. Sometimes in English lo can mean the, but often there is no English equivalent.


It is important not to confuse the Spanish article lo with the Spanish direct object pronoun lo meaning him, it or you polite in English. For more information on direct object pronouns take a look at the separate lesson on direct and indirect object pronouns.


How lo is used to make a noun


In Spanish the article lo is never used with a noun but it can be used to make a noun. In these situation lo means the in English.


Lo más importante es no gritar.  The most important thing is not to shout.
Lo malo de él es su aliento.  The bad thing about him is his breath.
Lo único que quiero es sal.  The only thing I want is salt.


Using lo que or de lo que


The article lo can be used with the words que to mean what, or de and que to mean than in English. Do not use it with qué which also means what!


 Lo que quiero es más. What I want is more.
(Yo) hice lo que (tú) me dijiste.  I did what you told me.
Ella tiene más edad de lo que parace. She's older than she seems.


Using lo to form adverbial phrases


The article lo can also be used to form some very common adverbial phrases as follows:


a lo menos at least
a lo mejor maybe
por lo visto apparently
a lo sumo at most


For more information on adverbs take a look at the separate lessons on adverbs part 1 and part 2.


That concludes this lesson on articles. If you have not done so already watch the actual video for this lesson and then try one of the associated quizzes to test your understanding.

Articles - Definite / Indefinite (the and a in English)
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