Using definite articles el, la, los, las with bodyparts and clothing (definite articles)

In Spanish, when you refer to your own or someone else's body parts (and by extension items of clothing, including pockets), you use the definite article (el, la, los las). This is different to English which uses the possessive adjective (mi, tu, su, nuestros etc).

Carmen siempre levanta la mano en clase.
Carmen always raises her hand in class.

Mi hijo siempre cuelga el abrigo en la percha.
My son always hangs his coat on the peg.

La chica mueve mucho las manos cuando habla.
The girl moves her hands a lot when she talks.

Yo cierro los ojos cuando voy al dentista.
I close my eyes when I go to the dentist.

NOTE: when using reflexive verbs, it is clearer who the subject is but Spanish still uses definite articles and not possessives like English would do:

Clara se lava los pies cada día.
Clara washes her feet everyday.

Mi madre se peina el pelo con un cepillo nuevo.
My mum brushes her hair with a new brush.

Nosotros nos ponemos crema solar en la cara.
We put on suncream on our faces.

In Spanish there is no need to emphasise who the owner is by using the possesive adjective (my, your, his...) that is required in English.

Although this sentence would be grammatically correct, it would sound very odd to a Spanish speaker:

Clara se lava sus pies cada día.
Clara washes her feet every day.

Spanish does not use the possesive "sus" (her) because for the Spanish-speaker it is clear that reference is being made to her own feet, not somebody else's.

More examples:

Me duele mucho la cabeza.
My head hurts a lot.

Ella se lava el pelo con champú y suavizante.
She washes her hair with shampoo and conditioner.

Mis hijas siempre se ponen las zapatillas en la casa.
My daughters always put their slippers on at home.

Note that it applies when referring to an animal's parts of the body also:

Mi perro mueve la cola cuando está contento.
My dog moves its tails when he is happy.

 

 

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Nosotros nos ponemos crema solar en la cara.
We put on suncream on our faces.


Ella se lava el pelo con champú y suavizante.
She washes her hair with shampoo and conditioner.


La chica mueve mucho las manos cuando habla.
The girl moves her hands a lot when she talks.


Mi madre se peina el pelo con un cepillo nuevo.
My mum brushes her hair with a new brush.


Me duele mucho la cabeza.
My head hurts a lot.


Los niños ponen los zapatos en un rincón.
The children put their shoes in a corner.


Mi hijo siempre cuelga el abrigo en la percha.
My son always hangs his coat on the peg.


Mi perro mueve la cola cuando está contento.
My dog moves its tails when he is happy.


Carmen siempre levanta la mano en clase.
Carmen always raises her hand in class.


Yo cierro los ojos cuando voy al dentista.
I close my eyes when I go to the dentist.


Clara se lava los pies cada día.
Clara washes her feet everyday.


Mis hijas siempre se ponen las zapatillas en la casa.
My daughters always put their slippers on at home.


Yo meto la mano en el bolsillo.
I put my hand in my pocket.


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