When should you use articles in Spanish?

When people first start to learn Spanish they first need to learn the basics such as how to say “the” in Spanish. This is called the definite article and in Spanish there are four different articles depending on whether the noun is masculine, singular, feminine or plural:

  • Masculine, singular nouns use “el”:

el libro = the book

  • Feminine, singular nouns use “la”:

la casa = the house

  • Masculine, plural nouns use “los”:

los chicos = the boys

  • Feminine, singular nouns use “las”:

las chicas = the girls

The problem comes when you start to see these words used everywhere often when we wouldn’t need to say “the” in English.

In this blog post we will look at when you need to remember to use the definite articles in Spanish:

1) Talking about likes and dislikes

When using “gustar” (to like) and similar verbs you always need to use the definite article:

Me gusta el fútbol – I like football
Me gusta la paella – I like paella
Me gustan los calamares – I like squid
Me gustan las gambas – I like prawns

There are many verbs that work in the same way that also need the definite article:

Me encanta – I love

Me encanta la historia – I love history
Me encantan los deportes – I love sports

Me interesa – I am interested in

Me interesa la política – I am interested in politics

Me chifla/n – I am crazy about

Me chiflan los coches – I am crazy about cars

2) Days of the week

All of the days are masculine and use “el” to say “on …” or “los” for plural days:

e.g. Trabajo el sábado – I work on Saturday
Trabajo los sábados – I work on Saturdays

3) Time

Use the definite articles when talking about the time. You always use the feminine article because you are referring to “la hora” (the time).

Es la una – It’s one o’clock
Son las dos – It is two o’clock

La clase empieza a las nueve – The class starts at nine

4) NO definite article when talking about professions, nationality or religion

Profession:
In English we say “I am a doctor” however in Spanish you leave out the article for “a” and just say “I am doctor” “Soy médico/a”.

However if you want to add a descriptive word, you DO need the article:

Es un buen profesor – He is a good teacher.

Nationality:
Soy inglesaI am English

Religion:
Soy católicoI am a Catholic

5) Don’t use the article when using uncountable nouns

In English we use words like “some” or “any” but in Spanish they don’t say anything for this:

No tengo dinero – I don’t have any money
Hay sal en la mesa – There is some salt on the table

Quiz:

Have a go at translating the following into Spanish:
(Answers are below.)

1. The party is on Friday.
2. He is Spanish.
3. Is there any milk in the fridge?
4. It’s 4.30 p.m.
5. She is a doctor.
6. I don’t like olives.
7. We go to the cinema on Sundays.
8. I love Spanish omelette.
9. The concert is at 7 p.m.
10. She is a brilliant hairdresser.

Answers:

1. La fiesta es el viernes.
2. (Él) es español.
3. ¿Hay leche en la nevera?
4. Son las cuatro y media de la tarde.
5. (Ella) es médica.
6. No me gustan las aceitunas / las olivas.
7. Vamos al cine los domingos.
8. Me encanta la tortilla española.
9. El concierto es a las siete de la tarde.
10. (Ella) es una peluquera estupenda.