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