Articles are one of the most interesting areas of the Spanish language you can familiarize yourself with. Not only do they help you indicate a subject's number and gender, but they also enable you to make more natural sentences that sound more like those of a native.
Articles in English are pretty straightforward; you only have to worry about "the" and "an/a." However, when it comes to definite and indefinite articles in Spanish, there is, of course, more than meets the eye.
There are four forms of the definite article in Spanish: el, la, los, las. The first thing you need to learn here is that these forms will directly depend on the gender and number of the noun you are using. You must, therefore, identify these two elements first.
El is always used for singular, masculine words. For example:
La is always used for singular, feminine words. For example:
Los is always used for plural, masculine words. For example:
Las is always used for plural, feminine words. For example:
Pretty much like in English, the indefinite article is used to refer to a non-specific item. It also follows the gender-number rule. There are four forms for the indefinite article in Spanish: un, una, unos, unas.
Un is always used for singular, masculine words. For example:
Una is always used for singular, feminine words. For example:
Unos is always used for plural, masculine words. For example:
Unas is always used for plural, feminine words. For example:
The indefinite article el is contracted following the prepositions de and a. This contraction rule doesn't work like English contractions where it's an option to be formal or informal, this is a rule to remember.
There is, however, an exception to this rule. The indefinite article el can't be contracted if it is part of a brand name, proper name, business name, place name, or similar.
Spanish articles can be omitted in very particular cases. For instance:
The definite article can be omitted when it is used with ordinal numbers for names of kings and queens:
It can also be omitted in front of the days of the week when they are followed by a conjugated form of the verb ser indicating the current day of the week:
In all other cases, the Spanish definite article can't be omitted when used with days of the week.
El shouldn't be omitted when used with names of languages. However, when used in phrases that contain the preposition en or verbs such as aprender, saber, and hablar, it must be omitted.
In the same way, the definite article el can be omitted with seasons of the year and with transportation means.
One of the most common omissions of the Spanish indefinite article happens when it is used after the verb ser, if the noun used is related to a profession, a nationality, or a religion, among others. However, it is important to remember that if the noun is used after an adjective, the article can't be omitted.*
See? That wasn't so bad. Definite and indefinite articles are extremely important and useful in Spanish grammar. Make sure you follow these simple rules and you'll definitely notice a quick improvement in your ability to talk and write more like a native Spanish speaker. Gender goes hand in hand with articles in Spanish, so why not refresh your memory on the gender of Spanish words?