Spanish Definite Article and Spanish Indefinite Article  

The definite article is used to restrict the meaning of a noun to make it refer to something that is known by both the speaker and the listener. The indefinite article does NOT restrict the meaning of a noun, but rather, refers to a type or a group. This section begins with basic lessons on both the definite articles and indefinite articles and then continues to more advanced lessons.

Resources Spanish Grammar Definite and Indefinite Article

Determiners precede the noun and specify it. They answer the basic question "Which one?". The class of determiners includes indefinite/definite articles, demonstrative adjectives and possessive adjectives.

The Indefinite Article

In Spanish, the indefinite article refers to a noun that actually 'exists' in the context, it is often omitted when the noun refers to a simple human classification (especially after words like ser) or to an abstract modifier of classification (especially after a preposition like de). Compare the following sentences:

Arturo es un profesor alemán. [modified] Arturo es profesor. [simple classification]
'Arthur is a German professor.' 'Arthur is a professor. '

Esta es la ropa de un niño. Esta es ropa de niño. [type of clothing]
'This is the clothing of a [existing] child.' 'This is child's/children's clothing.'

Certain limiting adjectives do not take indefinite article: otro, mil, cien, cierto, tal

The Definite Article

Like English, the Spanish the definite article is used to refer to individuals or to a specific set of individuals. Unlike English, Spanish uses the definite article to refer to a concept in its totality. English uses zero-article to express this notion. Compare these sentences:

El gato tomó la leche. 'The cat drank the milk.' [indvidual]
Los gatos se escaparon. 'The cats escaped.' [specific set]
Los gatos son independientes. 'Cats are independent.' [totality/all cats]
Odio los gatos. 'I hate cats.' [totality/all cats]

Rule of thumb: Subject nouns in Spanish require a determiner [an article, a demonstrative adjective, or a possessive adjective.]

There are a number of specific cases where Spanish uses the definite article, but English does not. A few important ones are: titles in indirect reference [el señor Juárez = 'Mr. Juarez'], days of week (except after ser) [Vamos el lunes. = ' We are going on Monday.'] , clock time [ Son las tres. = 'It is three o'clock.'], in place of the possessive adjective [Se quitó la chaqueta. = 'He took off his jacket.'], etc.

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