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The Definite Article: Part II

Notes:

  1. The written lesson is below.
  2. Links to quizzes, tests, etc. are to the left.

By now, you are quite familiar with the definite articles:

el
la
los
las

You are probably comfortable with the normal uses of the definite article.

El chico es alto.
La chica es guapa.
Los hombres comen mucho.
Las mujeres charlan.

In this lesson, you will learn some additional rules to help you use the definite article correctly. For example, feminine singular nouns that begin with an emphasized a or ha use the masculine form of the article.

el agua
el hacha
el hambre
el águila

This rule only applies to the singular form of the noun. The plural form uses the feminine article.

el agua
las aguas
el hacha
las hachas
el hambre
las hambres
el águila
las águilas

Note: The reason the singular form uses the masculine article is that when the first syllable is an emphasized a or ha, the article la tends to run together with the first syllable of the word when they are spoken. This doesn’t happen with the article las.

The definite article is used with some countries and cities, and is not used with others. Here are some examples where it is used:

la Argentina
el Brasil
el Canadá
el Ecuador
la Florida
la Habana
la India
el Japón
el Paraguay
el Perú
el Salvador
el Uruguay

There is no convenient rule to tell you when to use the definite article. You simply have to memorize the ones that do.

The definite article is always used with compound geographic names.

la América Central
la América del Sur
los Estados Unidos
la Gran Bretaña

The definite article is used when talking about a person, but it is not used when talking directly to a person.

El señor Gómez es profesor.
Señor Gómez, ¿es usted profesor?

La señorita está muy bonita.
¡Señorita! Usted está muy bonita esta noche.

The definite article is used when reflexive verbs are followed by body parts, clothing or other very personal possessions.

María se lava la cara.
Él se pone el traje.

The definite article is often used in place of the possessive adjective when talking about parts of the body, or possessions that might be considered “personal.” For example, in English it would be quite common to say:

Joseph washes his clothes.

To convey the same meaning in Spanish, it would be correct to say:

Jose lava la ropa. (not “su” ropa)

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