Tips to use Spanish articles like a native speaker

by Patricia Mendez on Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Do you know which are the 5 most common words in Spanish?

De (‘of’)                                              Que (‘that’, ‘which’, ‘who’)

La (‘the’, fem.)                                   En (‘in’)

El (‘the’, masc.)

And do you know what? Two of them are articles. To master Spanish language like a native, you need to really understand how this grammatical category works. Today’s blog post features Lucas, our Head of Studies in don Quijote Seville, talking about tips and tricks to use Spanish articles like an expert.

Keep on reading to discover some particular uses of Spanish articles or click here to switch to the Spanish translation and practice your reading skills. Let’s get started!

Masculine or feminine?

In your Spanish lessons, you’ve probably always learned that words ending in -a are usually feminine. Well, although that’s true, feminine words are not always preceded by the feminine article la. In fact, feminine names starting with a stressed letter a are introduced by masculine articles. For example:

El ala izquierda del edificio

(The left wing of the building)

El área afectada por el incendio es de 3 hectáreas

(The area affected by the fire is 7.4 acres)

Un águila

(An eagle)

With or without article?

Not all names are preceded by an article. Proper nouns are a clear example of that, both in English and in Spanish. Despite of that, in some Spanish regions and due to Catalan’s influence, it is customary to introduce people’s names with the articles el or la. Bear in mind though that in Spanish proper nouns aren’t usually introduced by articles. Here are some exceptions to the rule:

  1. Very informal use of people’s names. For example:

Dile al [a + el] Antonio que baje a por pan al supermercado.

(Tell Antonio to get bread from the supermarket)

La Mari es la hija de la Antonia, la del quinto piso.

(Mari is the daughter of Antonia, the neighbor on the 5th floor)

  1. People differentiation. For example:

- ¿Ha venido Paco?

- ¿Qué Paco? ¿El de la oficina?

- No, no. El Paco amigo de Juana.

( - Has Paco come?
- Which Paco? The one from the office?

- No, no. The one (Paco) who is friends with Juana.)

  1. When the proper noun becomes an adjective. For example:

Tu hijo juega increíble al fútbol, está hecho un Messi con el balón.

(Your son is great at soccer, he’s such a Messi with the ball)

Omission of the article

how to use Spanish articles 1 how to use Spanish articles 2 how to use Spanish articles 3

When we link a profession to a specific person in Spanish, we usually elide the article. Here are some examples:

- Mi padre es médico, ¿y el tuyo?

- El mío es profesor de secundaria.

                (- Mi father is a doctor. What about yours?

                 - Mine is a high school teacher.)

In newspaper headlines, dropping the articles is common technique journalists use to achieve a more expressive effect. For example:

Paro, pobreza e inestabilidad, consecuencias de la crisis económica.

(Unemployment, poverty and volatility, the consequences of the economic crisis)

Generalizations

Sometimes, the article is also used to generalize a category. In these cases, it occupies the subject position. For example:

El café y la patata son productos originarios de América Latina.

(Coffee and potatoes are original from Latin America)

El petróleo es un bien preciado porque es finito.

(Oil is a prized asset because it is finite)

Hope you found this article about articles useful 😉 If you want to keep learning Spanish with regular grammar pills, follow @don_Quijote on Twitter. Learning can be fun!


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