Presence of the definite articles el/la/los/las

The presence or absence of articles in Spanish is one of the most confusing issues for English speakers, as it often doesn't match the English rules.

One common mistake is omitting the definite article el/la/los/las at the beginning of a sentence when they are accompanying nouns that are the subject of the sentence. Let's have a look at some examples:

El café cambia el color de los dientes.
Coffee changes the colour of your teeth.

La cafeína puede provocar mareos a veces.
Caffeine can provoke dizziness sometimes.

Los políticos españoles están discutiendo asuntos sobre Gibraltar.
Spanish politicians are discussing some issues about Gibraltar.

Los latinoamericanos tienen una historia y cultura muy rica.
Latin Americans have a very rich history and culture.

Las ballenas son animales mamíferos.
Whales are mammals.

Notice how in all the examples above we need the article in Spanish but not in English.

It would be incorrect to say:

"Café cambia el color de los dientes."

"Latinoamericanos tienen una historia y cultura muy rica."

the same way it would be incorrect to say in English:

"The coffee changes the colour of your teeth."

The Latin Americans have a very rich history and culture.

Here are other examples:

La generosidad es la cualidad que más aprecio en mi pareja.
Generosity is the quality I most appreciate in my partner.

El turismo contribuye en gran medida a la economía local de este pueblo.
Tourism contributes greatly to the local economy of this village.

Los hijos de Marta se han ido a Alemania.
Marta's sons have gone to Germany.

Las personas mayores que viven en esa aldea están aisladas.
Old people who live in that hamlet are isolated.

Los impuestos en Noruega son demasiado altos.
Taxes in Norway are too high.

Bear in mind that sometimes in English this type of sentence becomes more specific, and the articles are used. 

"The heat in Seville is unbearable in August."

"El calor en Sevilla es insoportable en agosto."

But the difference is that in Spanish both in general subjects and specific ones the definite article is always needed.

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Los políticos españoles están discutiendo asuntos sobre Gibraltar.
Spanish politicians are discussing some issues about Gibraltar.


El turismo contribuye en gran medida a la economía local de este pueblo.
Tourism contributes greatly to the local economy of this village.


Los impuestos en Noruega son demasiado altos.
Taxes in Norway are too high.


Los latinoamericanos tienen una historia y cultura muy rica.
Latin Americans have a very rich history and culture.


Las personas mayores que viven en esa aldea están aisladas.
Old people who live in that hamlet are isolated.


La generosidad es la cualidad que más aprecio en mi pareja.
Generosity is the quality I most appreciate in my partner.


Los hijos de Marta se han ido a Alemania.
Marta's sons have gone to Germany.


La cafeína puede provocar mareos a veces.
Caffeine can provoke dizziness sometimes.


Las ballenas son animales mamíferos.
Whales are mammals.


El café cambia el color de los dientes.
Coffee changes the colour of your teeth.


Q&A Forum 1 question, 1 answer

JohnB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Including the definite article

Hola,

Is there a lesson which develops this theme, and discusses when the definite article is used with the noun in the body of a sentence - and if there are times when this is not the case?

Thanks. John

Asked 3 months ago
InmaKwiziq team member

Hola John

There aren't more lessons on this subject at the moment but it's been noted for further content.

Gracias y saludos

Inma

Including the definite article

Hola,

Is there a lesson which develops this theme, and discusses when the definite article is used with the noun in the body of a sentence - and if there are times when this is not the case?

Thanks. John

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