What are Spanish Articles

Articles are an important part of Spanish. Although this is one of the first topics that people learn, these words can be confusing for some students. As a result, many people wonder what articles are in Spanish. 

Spanish articles are words that accompany a noun and whose purpose is to define if an object is specific or unspecific. These words are always placed before the noun and have to match the noun’s gender and number. Articles are categorized as definite and indefinite articles. 

Articles in Spanish can be confusing for many learners. For that reason, on this page, we’ll explain more in-depth what these words are. Additionally, we’ll provide you with examples of how to use them as well as a list with all the Spanish articles that you need to know. 

By the end of this, you’ll have a better understanding of what articles are and how many of them are in Spanish. 

What are articles in Spanish

Even though you may not know them by that name, articles are an important part of the Spanish language. As a result, it’s important that you get familiar with this topic.

graphic showing spanish definite and indefinite articles

To put it simply, articles are words that accompany the noun and indicate or define if that noun is something concrete and specific or unknown and unspecified. In order to use them correctly, articles always need to match the noun’s gender and number. 

So for example, if a noun is plural masculine, the article that goes with it needs to be plural masculine. Unlike other words that have more flexibility, Spanish articles are always placed before the noun. Here are some phrase structures that you can use:

To introduce or describe a noun:

Notice that articles are not used in the same situation as they are in Spanish. 

[Article] + [noun] + [complement] 

Las vecinas de Emma son alemanas
Emma’s neighbors are german

Unos niños me dieron estas flores
Some kids gave me these flowers

To introduce an action: 

[Subject] + [verb] + [article] + [noun] + [complement]

Invita a las hermanas de Mary, por favor
Please, invite Mary’s sisters

Tenemos un boleto de avión para Madrid
We have a plane ticket to Madrid

As mentioned before, articles can be divided into definite and indefinite articles. Choosing one or the other, will allow you to indicate if a noun is concrete or unknown and unspecified.

In the following sections, we’ll explain more about each type of article and we’ll provide you with examples. 

What are the 4 definite articles in Spanish?

Spanish definite articles are used when the noun refers to something concrete and specific to the speaker. Since they have to match the gender and the number of the nouns that they’re working with, there are four definite Spanish articles: 

Gender + NumberSpanish articleEnglish article
Masculine singularElThe
Feminine singularLaThe
Masculine pluralLosThe
Feminine pluralLasThe

In order to know if you need a definite article, you have to determine if you’re talking about a specific and concrete object, person or thing. Here are some examples:

No me gusta el chocolate blanco
I don’t like white chocolate

Los perros de Juan no comen croquetas
Juan’s dogs don’t eat croquettes

La amiga de mi hermana es alemana
My sister’s friend is german

¿Dónde dejaste las blusas rosas?
Where did you leave the pink blouses?

Something to keep in mind with definite articles is that a Spanish sentence can use them, but they don’t necessarily have to be used in the English translation.

Take Note: Although they work with nouns, definite articles don’t usually accompany proper nouns such as Daniela, Juan or Linda. As an exception, they only work with proper nouns for places (names of cities, rivers, forests) such as El Amazonas, El Cairo, etc. 

Spanish Contractions: Al and Del

In some cases, a Spanish sentence will have both an article and a preposition. When working with the prepositions a and de, masculine singular definite articles will contract to facilitate the pronunciation: 

graphic showing article contractions when using a and de

¿Quieres ir al cine?
Do you want to go to the movies?

Este libro es del niño
This books belongs to the boy

Daniel sabe cómo llegar al hospital
Daniel knows how to get to the hospital

These types of contractions are very common in Spanish. But notice that they’re not applied when using:

  • Masculine plural nouns
  • Feminine nouns
  • Articles with proper nouns for places

Vamos a la tienda
Let’s go to the store

Andrés y Luis se mudaron a El Paso
Andres and Luis moved out to El Paso

No nos gusta ir a los restaurantes del centro
We don’t like to go to the restaurants downtown 

What are the 4 indefinite articles in Spanish?

As mentioned above, Spanish articles are divided into indefinite and definite articles. Unlike definite articles, indefinite articles are used to talk about unknown or unconcrete things. Spanish indefinite articles are: 

Gender + NumberSpanish articleEnglish
Masculine singularUnA/An
Feminine singularUnaA/An
Masculine pluralUnosFew/Some
Feminine pluralUnasFew/Some

Many learners have issues understanding when to use indefinite articles, but as established before, these words are used to talk about unspecified things. Check these examples: 

Necesito comprar una mochila
I need to buy a backpack 

Un niño nos trajo el periódico
A boy brought us the newspaper

Te compré unos chocolates
I bought you some chocolates

Ayer vimos a unas niñas tocando el piano
Yesterday we saw some kids playing piano

Notice: when using indefinite articles we imply that we don’t know much information about the noun used. Take the past sentences as an example: we don’t know the type or brand of the chocolates that I got. We also don’t know the boy that brought the newspaper and the girls playing the piano. 

Take Note: In other contexts, indefinite articles can also be used as pronouns or to indicate quantities. Here you can find the different uses of ‘un, unos and unas’.

Wrapping Up

In Spanish, articles are a necessary part of our sentences. So, if you want to improve your Spanish, you definitely need to get familiar with these words. For that reason in this article, we’ve learned what articles are and we showed you the different types of articles that you can find in Spanish. 

Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Articles are always placed before a noun.
  • They are classified as either definite and indefinite. 
  • Definite articles indicate if something is concrete and specific. 
  • Indefinite articles are used to express that something is unknown and unspecified.
  • There are four types of definite articles: el, los, la, las. They can be translated as ‘the’.
  • There are four types of indefinite articles: un, una, unos, unas. They can be translated as ‘some’, ‘few’ or ‘a/an’. 

Hopefully, now you have a better idea about what articles are in Spanish 😉

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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