The Ultimate Tip-Sheet to Articles in Spanish: “El” vs “La”, “Un” vs “Una”

Articles in Spanish can be confusing, even annoying. It makes sense because there are only two articles in English: “The and “A. Yet there are four ways of saying “the in Spanish, and four ways of saying “a. Why, when and how to use all these articles is simpler than you think, and important to learn when learning to speak Spanish.

Articles are words that define a noun as specific or unspecific. Consider the following examples:

After the long day, the cup of tea tasted particularly good.

By using the article “the, we’ve shown that it was one specific day that was long and one specific cup of tea that tasted good. That’s why “theis called a definite article.

After a long day, a cup of tea tastes particularly good.

By using the article a, we’ve created a general statement, implying that any cup of tea would taste good after any long day. That’s why a is called an indefinite article.

Gender in the Spanish language

That’s all beautiful. The thing is that in Spanish every single noun has a gender: feminine or masculine. “A chair” is feminine, but “a bench” is masculine. If you have studied some Spanish you are painfully aware of this.

Like nouns, articles in Spanish also have genders. But it doesn’t stop there, in addition to gender, all articles in Spanish also have a plural form. There is no plural for “the in English, it stays the same whether we are talking about “the chair” or “the chairs.” But there is a plural form for “a: “a chair,” “some chairs.”

THE chair THE chair
A chair SOME chairs

 

Articles in Spanish take on both the gender and the number of the noun. That’s why there are so many ways of saying “the and “a in Spanish. Let’s see them in action.

How to say THE in Spanish: The definite article (EL, LA)

In Spanish the definite article “the must agree in gender with the noun:

MASCULINE
The El
The bench EL  banco

 

FEMININE
The La
The chair LA silla

 

The definite article “the must also agree with the noun in number:

MASCULINE PLURAL
The Los
The benches LOS bancos

 

FEMININE PLURAL
The Las
The chairs LAS sillas

 

Not too bad, right? But you might be wondering how to know when something is masculine or feminine… It isn’t so simple but it gets better with time and after a while you really start to get a feel for it. 

Follow this link for no fail rules on how to determine when a noun is feminine or masculine

How to say A in Spanish: The indefinite article (Un, Una)

Just like with definite articles, in Spanish the indefinite article “a must also agree with the noun in both gender and number:

MASCULINE
A Un
A bench UN  banco

 

FEMININE
The Una
A chair UNA silla

 

Note that “uno” only refers to the number 1, and it never replaces the indefinite article a. Whether we are talking about “a bench” or “one bench”, we use the same article: un banco.

What about the plural forms?

MASCULINE PLURAL
Some Unos
Some benches UNOS bancos

 

FEMININE PLURAL
Some Unas
Some chairs UNAS sillas

You can imagine how this gets confusing. And this is only the beginning, adjectives must agree with the nouns as well… it’s a whole world!!  At Fluenz we take it step by step. We do not throw all the rules at our students straight away but rather start introducing new forms and concepts once the previous ones have been cemented.

We only work with singular nouns at first. Then, once you have those down, we introduce the plurals and so forth.

Your turn!

Let’s see if you can use the correct articles for the following nouns. 

Try using all of the different articles: definite and indefinite, singular and plural.

Masculine Nouns

The juice jugo EL jugo
The juices jugos LOS jugos
A juice jugo UN jugo
Some juices jugos UNOS jugos
The coffee café EL café
The coffees cafés LOS cafés
A coffee café UN café
Some coffees cafés UNOS cafés
The restaurant restaurante EL restaurante
The restaurants restaurantes LOS restaurantes
A restaurant restaurante UN restaurante
Some restaurants restaurantes UNOS restaurantes
The taxi taxi EL taxi
The taxis taxis LOS taxis
A taxi taxi UN taxi
Some taxis taxis UNOS taxis
The man hombre EL hombre
The men hombres LOS hombres
A man hombre UN hombre
Some men hombres UNOS hombres

 

Feminine Nouns

The table mesa LA mesa
The tables mesas LAS mesas
A table mesa UNA mesa
Some tables mesas UNAS mesas
The street calle LA calle
The streets calles LAS calles
A street calle UNA calle
Some streets calles UNAS calles
The city ciudad LA ciudad
The cities ciudades LAS ciudades
A city ciudad UNA ciudad
Some cities ciudades UNAS ciudades
The flower flor LA flor
The flowers flores LAS flores
A flower flor UNA flor
Some flowers flores UNAS flores
The woman mujer LA mujer
The women mujeres LAS mujeres
A woman mujer UNA mujer
Some women mujeres UNAS mujeres

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get our Fall Special Promotion.