The gender of the noun will be shown by the article that is used before it. There are two types of articles – definite and indefinite. Definite articles (English ‘the’) tend to be used with nouns that have already been mentioned while indefinite articles (English ‘a/an’) introduce a previously unmentioned noun. Compare:

 

The dog ran across the road.

 

I saw a dog in the park.

 

In the first sentence, the speaker is referring to a dog which both s/he and the person to whom s/he is speaking already know about – i.e. a specific (definite) dog; while in the second sentence the speaker is introducing a new topic.

 

In Spanish the form of the article changes according to both the number and gender of the noun with which it is used.

 

The definite article

 

The equivalent of English ‘the’ has four forms in Spanish:

 

 

Masculine

Feminine


 

Singular

el

la


 

Plural

los

las


 

Note: Feminine nouns beginning with a stressed a or ha are preceded by el and not la, but this does not make them masculine nouns, it is just for ease of pronunciation. If another word comes between the article and the noun, la is used because pronunciation is no longer a problem. Also, las is used in the plural.

 

e.g.       el agua (water), el hacha (axe), el águila (eagle)

 

but       la gran águila, las hachas

 

 

The indefinite article

 

The equivalents of English ‘a’, ‘an’ and, in the plural ‘some’, are:

 

Masculine                               Feminine


 

Singular

un

una


 

Plural

unos

unas


 

What has been said with regard to feminine nouns beginning in stressed a or ha is also true for the indefinite article:

 

 

e.g.

un hacha,

un águila


 

but

unas hachas,

unas águilas