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Spanish has 4 different forms for the English definite article the. The choice of which to use depends on the noun that follows as definite articles have to agree in gender and number with the noun they precede. Check them out:

masculine feminine
singular El perro nada bien.
The dog swims well.
La mujer está sola.
The woman is alone.
plural Los niños son dulces.
The children are sweet.
Las rosas son rojas.
The roses are red.

Rules for the use of the definite article are different in English and Spanish. In general, Spanish speakers use el/la/los/las, more than English speaker use the.

For example, Spanish speakers use the definite article with:

use example English
specific nouns El teléfono de Ana es nuevo. Ana’s phone is new.
general or abstract nouns La música es buena para el alma. Music is good for the soul.
titles La señora López canta bien. Mrs. López sings well.
parts of the body Me duele la espalda. My back aches.
surnames to refer to a family Los Bermúdez son muy buenos. The Bermúdez are very nice.
languages El español es más difícil que el inglés. Spanish is more difficult than English.
days of the week Los lunes son horribles. Mondays are terrible.
geographic elements El océano Atlántico es cálido. The Atlantic ocean is warm.
seasons El invierno está por venir. Winter is coming.
times and moments of the day Te visitaré por latarde. I’ll visit you in the afternoon.

Share your experience.

Are any of these uses difficult for you? Why? Do you have problems choosing with form of the to use in Spanish?

For more posts like this, visit our summary post.

October 5, 2017


[deactivated user]

    El gato. Masculine. La gata. Feminine Los gatos. plural masculine Las gatas. plural feminine.

    • 1974

    that is correct!


    Thanks Duolingo for your support, you have improved the lives of many biolangual cultures :)


    Lol. Compared to Greek and even German this seems so easy.


    How is german harder here? German has 3 definite articles and Spanish has 4.


    German has 4 too (3 singular + 1 plural)


    Technically, German has more definite articles: der, die, das, den, dem, & des. ;)

    I agree though: believe it or not, this seems easier than German.

    • 1974

    I agree with you!


    German is harder :) I agree


    I'm slowly getting the hang of this. :)


    They're easy to me, because I'm Portuguese and Portuguese people tend to understand Spanish better. Lo - O La - A Los - Os Las - As

    Just remove the "L". Simple.


    One area that tripped me up recently was the fact that you use "el" before a feminine noun that begins with an a. Example: el agua clara.


    If the "a" at the beginning of the word is emphasised, the article is "el". I think this is just to avoid two emphasised "a" that close. But pay attention: the plural is feminine! El agua - las aguas, el arma - las armas, el alma - las almas.
    And the adjectives keep their female endings: El agua fría - el arma nueva....


    This is the kind of stuff that gets me every time. Some words there seems to be no way of knowing ahead of time.


    From my experience as a learner, the examples shown here are the easy ones -- at the beginner level. However, as someone who is farther along, I have trouble knowing when, and when not, to use a definite article.

    I do know that: In general, use an article if the noun is the subject of the sentence. All the examploes above meet this criterion.

    Related to this: If the verb is "gustar" then the predicate does need a definite article (because with gustar, the predicate is actually as subject, due to the reflexivity of "gustar" "Me gusta el arroz."
    "No me gustan las verduras. " (I don't like vegetables.)

    Much harder is knowing when or when not to use the definite article when the noun is in the predicate -- if it is a direct object. Or is the object of a preposition.

    For examples: (These are all from Duolingo.)

    Let's not talk about money. (No discutamos ___ dinero.) Does "dinero' require a definite article?

    Voy a Barcelona ___ próximo año. (I'm going to Barcelona next year.) Does a definite article go in the blank?

    Nunca como _ frijoles. (definite article or not, in blank?)

    coge cereales para ___ desayuno mañana. (definite article or not, in blank?) Pick up some cereal for breakfast tomorrow.

    La unidad es mejor que___ dinero. Unity is better than money

    Es importante tener ___ inteligencia It's important to have intelligence.

    El precio de ___ comida es muy alto! The price of food is very high.

    Vamos a hornear una torta para ___ postre Let's bake a cake for dessert!

    Ella no quiere ____ tarta. She doesn't want cake.

    ¡El café me da _ energía! Coffee gives me energy .
    Yo odio
    café. I hate coffee

    Ella prefiere café sobre té. She prefers coffee over tea.

    La calidad de ___ servicio. The quality of service

    Mi amigo estudia ___ fotografía My friend studies photography

    Cultivamos ___ mangos en México. We grow mangos in Mexico

    My point is that I am mostly guessing when I encounter sentences like these, and am still pretty confused. (about definite articles in the predicate.)


    I am having the same difficulty. Knowing when to use the definite article has tripped me up in many of the practices.


    We might write another post to address more advance uses of articles. Thanks for pointing it out.


    this is sort of a refresher for me, even though i am in spanish 1. thanks!


    Gracias! It gets tricky when you can't tell if the word is masculine or feminine! :D


    Generally, you can tell. However, some you need to memorize.

    This will help. https://www.spanishdict.com/guide/masculine-and-feminine-nouns


    alguien sabe que dice esta frase y si es un verbo irregular plix: After a simple freshening up


    son usted bueno a espanol?


    No se entiende lo que quisiste escribir


    There's also lo, the neuter article which is rarely used.


    When would it be used? In my brief time learning the language it seems like everything is gendered one way or the other.


    It's kind of difficult. But Im good now. Thanks


    espanol es muy dificil, pero....gracias :)


    Thanks a lot for these explanation. I get confused especially with Los and Las.


    Well, los is angeles and las is vegas.:)


    Muchas gracias. No problema aqui.


    Gracias, esto me ayudará en el futuro


    this is very helpful the more i see when to use certain "the" more i'm confident on which one to use. thank you!


    Tu meaning you and your vs su meaning his, her. Why is su sometimes used for your?


    thanks for the explanation. im still having problems with masculine and feminine phrases

    [deactivated user]

      pour aider nicoud5 los pour le genre masc. et las pour le féminin


      What word category do Un / Una fit into and would this be the same for Unas / Unos ?


      where can we know if that is feminime and masculine words? (sorry for my bad English grammar)

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