Unit 1.1

Definite articles

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Introduction

Articles [artículos] are words that accompany a noun. They can be indefinite or definite.

Definite articles [artículos definidos] are used to refer to something specific that the speaker knows.

Form

Definite articles have four forms and are differentiated by gender and number: ellaloslas.

They are placed before nouns and adjectives or other modifiers that appear before nouns (except for the quantifier todo, placed before the article).

The presence of definite articles depends on other elements. They are used in these situations:

  • after the verb estar;
  • with a noun in structures with the verb gustar;
  • in the first position of a nominal phrase (preceding all the other elements).

According to gender and number, they are distributed as follows:

  Singular Plural
Masculino el los
Femenino la las

NOTE: When the prepositions a o de are placed before the masculine singular definite article (el), the contracted forms al (a + el) and del (de + el) are used.

Example

  • Ahí está el tractor amarillo.
  • En la maceta está la rosa roja.
  • Me gustan los gatos blancos.
  • Me gustan las patatas con chorizo.
  • Leo el periódico belga.
  • Veo la televisión británica.
  • Observo los pájaros holandeses.
  • Voy a las barracas españolas.

Use

Definite articles are used to:

  • Talk about people, animals, things or places already mentioned, about something that can be identified (to express known information);
  • Talk about someone or something unique;
  • To talk about someone or something in general.

Summary

Definite articles refer to something known to the speaker, something that can be identified; in English definite articles change in gender and number.

For example:

— «Ayer me compré una falda. La falda es muy bonita.» = We write una falda (= indefinite article) when it has not been mentioned before and la falda (= definite article) the second time it is said.

— «Puse el cuaderno sobre la mesa.» =  We know which cuaderno and which mesa we are talking about; they are already known;
— «La mesa y el cuaderno son objetos que encuentras en cualquier casa.» = He talks about los cuadernos and las mesas in general.
— «Salgo del despacho a las diez.» = Del is the contracted form of de+el despacho;
— «Voy al cine a las diez.» = Al is the contracted form ofa+el cine.

Check the contents of the {Form} section. Then move on to the {Example} section, which shows you the usage in context.

Exercises


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