The Use of Definite Articles in Spanish

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Santiago Gallego Villa Spagnolo
22 giugno 2017
906
3 minuti

Why do we say “el” instead of “la” for things without gender?



The right use of definite articles in Spanish is a key element to sound natural when talking to native Spanish speakers. However, it could be a challenge mostly for English speakers as they do not have different definite articles like in Spanish, only “The.” Therefore in Spanish, we have the following articles as shown in the example,
  • For singular nouns
  • El caballo.
  • La mesa.
  • For plural nouns
  • Los caballos.
  • Las mesas.

Actually, in English, we would use “the” for all of them. Nevertheless, the most curious detail is the different genders for things that do not have a gender like a table. Well, there is no a specific explanation for this case because it is a cultural element of the language. There are other languages like French which use diverse definite articles and sometimes the gender changes even for the same object. For instance, to say the car in Spanish we say: El carro (coche), while in French we say: La voiture.
Something that might help us to use the articles properly is the ending of the words, even though there are many exceptions that I am going to explain after this. I am going to give some example with each article.

El

  • Normally, use “el” with nouns that finish with the vowel “o”, for example: el perro, el libro, el cielo, el zapato, el techo, el pájaro, el equipo, el banano, el cabello, el cuerpo, el insecto, el triángulo, el disco, el huevo, el trono, el juego, el pasto.
  • Other words that finish with “o” and a consonant, for example: el jabón, el árbol, el amor, el avión, el camión, el borrador, el televisor, el reloj.
  • Many words that finish with the vowel “e” such as el cable, el mueble, el accidente, el muelle, el diente, el aire, el pie, el uniforme, el tomate.
  • Finally, words that finish with “i” and a consonant, el lapiz, el portatil, el pernil, el mastil, el maíz, el delfín.

La

  • Normally, use “la” with nouns that finish with the vowel “a”, namely, la cama, la casa, la ventana, la araña, la cobija, la tierra, la luna, la guitarra, la ortografía, la planta, la sabiduría, la sangría, la almohada, la lámpara, la cámara, la persona, la camisa, la fruta, la semana. (however, we say el día).

For people we use the article according to the gender.

Male:

  • El policía, el bombero, el carpintero, el hombre, el niño, el profesor, el jugador, el señor, el payaso, el mecánico, el ingeniero.

Female:

  • La mujer, la niña, la enfermera, la dentista, la escultora, la diseñadora, la trabajadora, la ganadora, la conductora, la presidente.

Exceptions:

  • Some of the exceptions for words that finish with “a” are words that begin with a vowel in order to avoid cacophony: el idioma, el águila, el agua, el azúcar.
  • For words that finish with “o” we have: la mano.
  • As I said before, many words that finish with “e” use “el”. However, we have some exceptions as in la calle, la madre, la gente, la mente, la serpiente, la piramide.
  • Other words are: la raiz, la matriz, la nariz, la pared.

Now, I’m going to give you some examples using sentences with the plural articles including some of the words that we have used above.
  • Los caballos corren en el pasto.
  • Las niñas quieren comer las frutas más deliciosas.
  • Los insectos se comen los bananos.
  • No me gustan los uniformes.
  • Las casas de mi vecindario tienen las plantas más bonitas.
  • Los idiomas nos ayudan a tener un cerebro más sano e inteligente.

The neutral article “Lo”

The definite article has another form which is neutral and we use it for adjectives, adverbs, and possessive adjectives that become nouns.
Some examples are:
  • Lo más importante es estudiar todos los días.
  • Lo bueno es que estoy aprendiendo español.
  • Lo tuyo es un problema fácil de resolver.

Additional tip

Probably, the most important aspect that we must understand is that in Spanish uses articles all the time. In English when we talk about things in general or uncountable nouns, we omit the article. Consequently, I am going to give you some examples comparing both languages.

  • People are very concerned about global warming and its effects on society.
  • La gente está muy preocupada acerca del calentamiento global y sus efectos en la sociedad. (del = de + el)
  • Mosquitos are very dangerous in some parts of the world.
  • Los mosquitos son muy peligrosos en algunas partes del mundo.
  • Money is the solution and the cause of all the problems in the world.
  • El dinero es la solución y la causa de todos los problemas en el mundo.

To conclude, I think that with this knowledge you are going to be able to identify the right use of the definite articles. You do not have to use all the time the dictionary to tell you the gender of each noun. Try to practice every day and certainly, you are going to improve your level of Spanish.

I hope that you have enjoyed the lesson, if you want to learn even more about Spanish, you can have me as your teacher here in Verbling following this link: here. https://es.verbling.com/teachers/santiago




Spagnolo Tutor Santiago Gallego Villa
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Santiago Gallego Villa

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Hello, my dear students! I'm back and ready to study Spanish with all of you. ¡Hola, queridos estudiantes! Bienvenidos a mi página en Verbling. I am from Medellín Colombia and I have studied a degree in foreign language teaching at the University of Antioquia. So far, I have taught Spanish, English and French for 2 years. I really love languages and teaching and I am so happy because you want to learn to speak Spanish. During my classes, I like to use the "communicative approach" to improve speaking skills, but also I teach grammar in a way that you can enjoy it. I know that we all have different ways of learning, so I like to adapt the classes to the needs and level of every student. Additionally, we can practice some of the idiomatic expressions and work with creative material that can be applied to your context. So, we can create the best class with an excellent environment to use Spanish all the time. If you want, you can book a trial lesson now; I'll be glad to have you in my class. See you soon!! Thank you for your support. By the way, you can read some of the articles I have written for Verbling on the following links: https://es.verbling.com/articles/post/the-use-of-definite-articles-in-spanish https://es.verbling.com/articles/post/the-reflexive-verbs-in-spanish ¡Chao y espero verlos pronto!
$16.00
USD/h
Flag Spagnolo
Colombia
261
Spagnolo
Madrelingua
,
Inglese
C2
,
Francese
B2
,
Portoghese
A1
,
Italiano
A1
Hello, my dear students! I'm back and ready to study Spanish with all of you. ¡Hola, queridos estudiantes! Bienvenidos a mi página en Verbling. I am from Medellín Colombia and I have studied a degree in foreign language teaching at the University of Antioquia. So far, I have taught Spanish, English and French for 2 years. I really love languages and teaching and I am so happy because you want to learn to speak Spanish. During my classes, I like to use the "communicative approach" to improve speaking skills, but also I teach grammar in a way that you can enjoy it. I know that we all have different ways of learning, so I like to adapt the classes to the needs and level of every student. Additionally, we can practice some of the idiomatic expressions and work with creative material that can be applied to your context. So, we can create the best class with an excellent environment to use Spanish all the time. If you want, you can book a trial lesson now; I'll be glad to have you in my class. See you soon!! Thank you for your support. By the way, you can read some of the articles I have written for Verbling on the following links: https://es.verbling.com/articles/post/the-use-of-definite-articles-in-spanish https://es.verbling.com/articles/post/the-reflexive-verbs-in-spanish ¡Chao y espero verlos pronto!

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