is created by David Witten, a mathematics and computer science student at Vanderbilt University. For more information, see the "About" page.

Definite Articles

What are articles?

Articles are el, la, los, las, un(a), un(as), meaning a/an and the. 

Nominalization/Sustantivación: USE IT

This is when you turn an adjective into a noun.

Me gusta el azul (I like blue).
El alto es mi padre. (The tall one is my father)

General concepts: USE IT

This refers to generalizations. Below, I write about love is eternal. I mean "all love is eternal", so I'm saying generally, love is eternal.

La vida es increíble. (Life is incredible)
El amor es eterno. (Love is eternal)

Not a generalization: DON'T

Llegaron noticias de Juan esta mañana. (News from Juan arrived this morning)
Chocaban trenes en Filadelfia. (Trains crash in Philly)
Yo comía verduras cada día. (I ate vegetables every day.)

(Most) Titles in a Sentence: USE IT

Use the title whenever your writing includes a title like

  • señor(a/ita)
  • profesor(a)
  • doctor(a)

Some Titles in a Sentence: DON'T

When you see these titles, don't use an article.

  • doña/don
  • san/santo/santa

Those are special cases.

Titles in a Question: DON'T

When you're asking a professor a question, you don't say

La Profesora Gomez, ....? You omit the article.

Languages: Mainly USE IT

You almost always use an article in front of a language, such as "el español" or "el ingles". Two notable excepts are

  • en _______
    Here you would just say "en español" not "en el español"
  • Following hablar
    You say "hablo español" not "hablo el español"

Aprender/Entender/Comprender/Enseñar/Leer: YOU CHOOSE

When a noun follows an of these verbs, the article is optional. 

Possessive: USE IT (not possessive = mi/mis!)

This I found particularly interesting. When you say "I raised my hand", you say Levanté la mano, not mi mano or something. You always use an article when referring to something possessive. Even if it's something like "He took off his jacket", you would say "Se quitó el abrigo." 

Prepositional phrase: USE IT

Lo llevaron a la carcel. (They took him to jail)
Salimos de la mezquita a esa hora. (We left the mosque at that time.)

Day of the week: USE IT

Always use an article before a day of the week. 
La tarea es para el lunes. (The homework is for Monday)
The one minor exception is when you use es ____ to mean "is Friday" or something.

Hoy es miércoles. 

Sustantivo de sustantivo: DON'T

Never never never use an article when it is of this form: Sustantivo de sustantivo. 

You could say "El día de lunes" or something. 

Indefinite Articles