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The definite article the is translated by el before a masculine singular noun, la before a feminine singular noun, los before a masculine plural noun, las before a feminine plural noun:


  •  the book/books = el libro/los libros

  •  the table/tables = la mesa/las mesas


Singular feminine nouns beginning with a stressed or accented a or ha take the article el rather than la:


  •  the eagle = el águila

  •  the water = el agua


These nouns are marked in this dictionary by the symbol ‡

Exceptions to this rule are:

▪ the letters of the alphabet la a and la hache

▪ words such as la árabe, where the feminine article is needed in order to differentiate gender

The masculine singular article el combines with the prepositions de and a to form del and al:


  •  la página del libro = the page of the book

  •  fui al mercado = I went to the market


When/when not to use the

In the following cases, translations into Spanish must include the definite article, although it does not appear in English

▪ with generic nouns, which denote a whole category:


  •  love is powerful = el amor es poderoso

  •  I despise hypocrisy = detesto la hipocresía

  •  children are a blessing = los niños son una bendición

  •  roses are beautiful = las rosas son hermosas


▪ with the names of certain countries and places:


  •  India = la India

  •  Cairo = El Cairo

  •  Havana = la Habana


Note that some geographical names may be used with or without the article (this is not a comprehensive list):


  •  Argentina = (la) Argentina

  •  Brazil = (el) Brasil

  •  Ecuador = (el) Ecuador

  •  Japan = (el) Japón

  •  Paraguay = (el) Paraguay

  •  Peru = (el) Perú

  •  Uruguay = (el) Uruguay

  •  Vietnam = (el) Vietnam


▪ where a second plural noun is mentioned, with a change of gender in the Spanish:


  •  the horses and cows = los caballos y las vacas


The definite article is not translated in the names of monarchs or popes which contain an ordinal number in English:


  •  Henry the Third = Enrique tercero

  •  Elizabeth the Second = Isabel segunda


For more examples and particular usages see the entries for the

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