The plural forms unos and unas are commonly omitted without any significant change of meaning (as they are in English). When used, they often have the meaning of ‘a few’ or ‘some’:

 

e.g.          Hay galletas en la caja.

 

There are biscuits in the box.

 

Hay unos niños en la calle.

 

There are some children in the street.

 

Another way of saying ‘some’ will be seen later.

 

Un(o) and una are also used to mean ‘one’:

 

e.g.               Sólo tengo un hermano.

 

I only have one brother.

 

But note that the form uno/una is used to mean ‘one’ when referring to a masculine singular noun when the noun itself is not mentioned:

 

e.g.                   ¿Tienes un perro?

 

Do you have a dog?

 

Si, tengo uno.

 

Yes, I have one.

 

¿Tienes una casa?

 

Do you have a house?

 

Si, tengo una.

 

Yes, I have one.

 

Although the use of the definite and indefinite articles in Spanish is generally similar to their use in English, there are a number of important cases when this is not so. Here are some common ones.

 

When referring to nouns in general

 

Nouns that refer to all the members of the relevant class usually require the use of the definite article, although in English the article is omitted in such cases:

 

Me gusta el café.

 

I like coffee – i.e. all coffee in general.

 

La violencia es inaceptable.

 

Violence is unacceptable – i.e. all violence.

 

 

 

 

El ruido me molesta.

 

Noise irritates me – i.e. all noise in general.

 

With nouns in apposition

 

When the noun refers back to the one just mentioned, the definite article is omitted:

 

Juan Carlos, rey de España

 

Juan Carlos, the King of Spain

 

Madrid, capital de España

 

Madrid, the capital of Spain

 

Before professions and status

 

Nouns that refer to professions, occupations and status, do not normally require an indefinite article, unless they are qualified by an adjective or other expression:

 

Es médico.

 

He’s a doctor.

 

Es un buen médico.

 

He’s a good doctor.

 

Soy soltero.

 

I’m a bachelor.

 

Soy un soltero muy feliz.

 

I’m a very happy bachelor.