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When a or de precedes the definite article el, the two words combine to form a contraction. That is, two words become one.

a + el = al
de + el = del

A + el is always contracted.

¿Llevas a el hermano de Raúl?

¿Llevas al hermano de Raúl?

De + el is always contracted.

¿El libro es de el profesor?

¿El libro es del profesor?

De + la, de + las, de + los, a + la, a + las, and a + los are never contracted.

¿Llevas al hermano de Raúl?
Are you taking Raul’s brother?

No, llevo a las hermanas de Pilar.
No, I’m taking Pilar’s sisters.

¿El libro es del profesor?
Is the book the profesor’s?

No, el libro es de la profesora.
No, the book is the profesor’s (fem).

Remember the difference between el and él. The pronoun (él) does have a written accent and means “he.” The definite article (el) does not have a written accent and means “the.”

el libro / the book
él come / he eats

Only the definite article (el) is contracted. The pronoun (él) is not.

La Casa Blanca es la casa del presidente.
The White House is the president’s house.

Es la casa de él.
It’s his house.

A él no le gusta fumar.
He doesn’t like to smoke.