Like in the English language, the Spanish language has both indefinite and definite articles that communicate if we are referring to something specific or to something general. We use definite articles when we are discussing a specific noun and indefinite articles when discussing a general noun. For example, if we are talking about a specific cat we say “el gato”. Using a definite article communicates that there is a specific cat in mind; this is equivalent to saying “the cat” in the English language. On the other hand, we use indefinite articles when discussing something in general or one of many things. Using the previous example, if we say “un gato” or “a cat” we could be referring to any cat, or one cat in a group of many.
The Spanish language indefinite articles are: un, unos, una, unas. These indefinite articles are equivalent to the English language “a”, “an”, or “some”. However, unlike English language articles, Spanish language articles change based on the gender of the noun as well as the number (singular or plural). For example, a table in Spanish is the feminine noun, “mesa” so we say “una mesa”. If we are talking about “some tables” we need to use a plural and feminine indefinite article so we would say “unas mesas”.
Hay un libro en el suelo – There is a book on the floor. (un libro is masculine and singular)
Dame una manzana – Give me an apple. (una manzana is feminine and singular)
Compré unos zapatos ayer – I bought some shoes yesterday. (unos zapatos are masculine and plural)
Quiero unas galletas – I want some cookies. (unas galletas are feminine and plural)
The Spanish language definite articles are: el, los, la, las
These definite articles are equivalent to the English language article “the”. In the English language the definite article does not need to match gender or number of its noun like it does in the Spanish language. For example, in English we can say “the bicycle” or “the bicycles” but in Spanish we must change articles based on the number gender so we say either “la bicicleta” or “las bicicletas” using the plural and feminine definite article “la”.
Here are some examples of definite articles in a sentence:
Tengo el libro en mi mano – I have the book in my hand. (el libro is masculine and singular)
La manzana es rojo – The apple is red. (la manzana is feminine and singular)
Me gusta los zapatos de Maria – I like Maria’s shoes. (los zapatos are masculine and plural)
Dame las galletas chocolates – Give me the chocolate cookies. (las galletas are feminine and plural)
The Importance of Using Correct Articles
When using definite or indefinite articles in the Spanish language you must be certain that you are using the article of the correct gender and number. This is why it is important that any documents or texts for your business or personal use are translated or edited by Spanish language experts, so they are free of errors. Spanish translation and copy editing services such as Spanish with Style will ensure your documents and texts are translated by Spanish language experts.