Lesson Topics

Definite and Indefinite Articles: Part I

Notes:

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

The difference between definite articles and indefinite articles can be observed in the following two sentences:

Give me the chocolate chip cookie.
Give me a cookie, please.



Imagine a plate full of cookies. There are peanut butter cookies, sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, and one chocolate chip cookie.



The first sentence speaks of a particular (or definite) cookie:

Give me the chocolate chip cookie.



The second sentence speaks of any of a number of cookies (or an indefinite cookie):

Give me a cookie, please.



The difference between the definite and indefinite articles is the difference between talking about a specific cookie, or any old cookie at all.

the cookie
a cookie



In English, the definite article is the word "the" regardless of whether the noun it introduces is singular or plural.

the cookie
the cookies



In Spanish, the definite article has 4 forms, depending on whether the noun is masculine, feminine, singular or plural.

el gato
the male cat
los gatos
the male cats
la gata
the female cat
las gatas
the female cats

Note: The masculine plural definite and indefinite articles (los, unos) are also used to indicate a group of mixed sex. Thus, "los gatos" could refer to a group of 10 male cats, or it could refer to a group of 9 female cats and one male cat.



The 4 forms of the definite article are:

el
masculine singular
la
feminine singular
los
masculine plural
las
feminine plural


In English, the indefinite article is the word "a," "an," or "some."

a cookie
an apple
some books



In Spanish, the indefinite article has 4 forms, depending on whether the noun is masculine, feminine, singular or plural.

un gato
a male cat
unos gatos
some male cats
una gata
a female cat
unas gatas
some female cats

Note: Remember, as long as the group of creatures has at least one male member, the masculine plural article is used. Thus, "unos gatos" could refer to a group of 10 male cats, or it could refer to a group of 9 female cats and one male cat.



The 4 forms of the indefinite article are:

un
masculine singular
una
feminine singular
unos
masculine plural
unas
feminine plural


Here are the definite and indefinite articles together:

el, un
masculine singular
la, una
feminine singular
los, unos
masculine plural
las, unas
feminine plural


Each of the following has a different meaning:

el gato
the male cat
los gatos
the male cats (or a mixed group)
la gata
the female cat
las gatas
the female cats
un gato
a male cat
unos gatos
some male cats (or a mixed group)
una gata
a female cat
unas gatas
some female cats


"Un" and "una" can mean "one," "a," or "an."

un libro
one book, a book
una pluma
one pen, a pen
una manzana
one apple, an apple

Items of Interest