Forum Rocket Spanish Spanish - Grammar When to Use the Definite Article

When to Use the Definite Article



Hi , Sorry to disturb.

can you advise me please 

i get stuck on definite articles sometimes



La oportunidad ir al caribe por una semana de sol y diversion

no el or la here on sol & diversion , i think 


llegamos a San Juan , el sol, el calor y la arena nos saludaron

El & la here , but why are the definite articles used here and not in first sentence.

If you could explain it would help me greatly.


Thank You







¡Hola VR143!

Thank you for your question! I have moved it into its own thread so that other users can find it more easily.

Deciding when to use a definite article can definitely be tricky for English speakers learning Spanish! You'll get a feel for it eventually, but it might take a little time for it to become automatic when you're speaking. This forum thread contains a full explanation about how the definite article works in Spanish.

The gist of that thread is that you use a definite article in two general instances:
  1.  when you want to talk about specific things
    • e.g. If you say Quiero un pedazo del pan "(I) want a piece of the bread," you mean "I want a piece of the bread (that we're talking about/that is right here)." If you just said Quiero un pedazo de pan "I want a piece of bread," without the article, you could be talking about any bread at all. Pan is just describing pedazo.
  2.  when you are talking about something as a concept or as a whole
    • e.g. If you want to talk about the concept of loyalty, you'll use the definite article and say la lealtad: La lealtad es importante "Loyalty is important."
(If this is too concise/difficult to follow, be sure to have a read of the full explanation in the thread I linked above.)

Now that we've got the general rules down, let's take a look at the phrases you've provided.

1. La oportunidad de ir al Caribe por una semana de sol y diversión.

Here, the article isn't used: una semana de sol y diversiónThis is actually just like the example of un pedazo de pan "a piece of bread" that we looked at above. In this phrase, we aren't pinpointing specific things or looking at whole concepts; instead, sol "sun" and diversión "fun" are just being used to describe semana "week." What kind of week is it? A week of fun and sun.

It might be easier to look at this as its own rule: No article is required when nouns following de "of" are just descriptive.

2. Llegamos a San Juan. El sol, el calor y la arena nos saludaron.

Here, the definite article is used: el sol, el calor y la arena. This is because we're talking about entire concepts: the concept of sun (el sol), the concept of heat (el calor), and the concept of sand (la arena). It's just like talking about the concept of loyalty, where we have to use la lealtad.

I hope that this is helpful! Do let me know if you still have any questions.




Gracias por tu amabilidad Liss,


I think i understand the bread , the concert seems strange to me because if you said de música rock  i would except you went to a rock concert , you dont have to add the LA and enforce that it was a rock concert . A rock concert is a rock concert but i think you were saying its up to the writer if they want to over emphasise .

but please excuse me because Soy tonto , i dont understand when you say concept or as a whole ,can you give me more help with the concept of loyalty.


Thanks You,



Another thing if you can help with .

Why say 

la comida de mexico

la literatura espanol DE 



Sorry one more and i wont ask for a long time..


el presidents no redujo LOS impuestas el años pasado

why is it THE taxes and not just taxes 



¡Hola VR143!


I'll break this answer up into sections so that it's a little easier to follow.


1. Un concierto de la música rock vs. Un concierto de música rock

Indeed, you don't really need to worry about the difference between phrases like these - the difference in emphasis is very small, and it was only mentioned in the other thread because the user had asked about it directly. 

In general, if you're using one noun/noun phrase to describe another like this, then you don't need to worry about adding a definite article. You can just use de “of.” For example:

  • un pedazo de pan “a piece of bread”
  • un vaso de agua “a glass of water”
  • una tienda de mascotas “a pet store" (literally: “a store of pets”)

The same thing happens in the other phrase that you've asked about, la comida de México (literally: “the food of Mexico”), where the noun México is describing the noun comida. In the other phrase you've asked about, la literatura española (literally: “the Spanish literature”), there is no de needed because española isn't a noun; instead, it's an adjective. 

2. A Concept as a Whole/A Generic Concept

When I say that you'll normally need a definite article when you're talking about something as a concept or as a whole, I mean to say when you're talking about something as a generic idea. For example, if we talk about loyalty, we're talking about the idea of loyalty in general. Similarly, when we talk about poverty, we're talking about the idea of poverty in general. But this isn't restricted to just theoretical concepts; we can also talk about the idea of books in general, or the idea of cats in general. 

Take a look at these examples: 

  • La pobreza es terrible. “Poverty is terrible.” - Here, we're talking about the idea or concept of poverty.
  • Me gustan los libros. “I like books.” - Here, we're talking about the idea of books, or books in general.
  • Los gatos son lindos. “Cats are cute.” - Here, we're talking about the idea of cats, or cats in general.

So whenever you need to talk about something in a generic way, you'll usually need to use a definite article.

As it happens, this is exactly why there is the definite article los in the sentence El presidente no redujo los impuestos el año pasado “The president didn't cut taxes last year” - it's because we're talking about the generic idea of taxes in general. 


I hope that this is helpful! 







it will take a while to get my head around it but i would like to say Thank You very much Liss for taking time to respond , it is very much appreciated.




¡De nada, VR143! 


This can definitely be a challenge at first, but as you're exposed to more and more Spanish, you'll start to get a feel for it naturally as well!







another question regarding definite article,

why after some verbs do you use and not after others

some examples

vendiste camisetas

enviábamos dinero


cobras el sueldo mínimo

como navegar el ciberespacio






¡Hola de nuevo VR143!

Thanks for your question!

Whether or not the definite article is used in these instances actually doesn't have much to do with the verbs themselves; instead, it has to do with what the speaker means when they use the nouns.

Let's start with the example of vendiste camisetas “(you) sold T-shirts." In this sentence, with no article present, the speaker is talking about selling multiple, non-specific T-shirts. We could add an article in here and say vendiste las camisetas “(you) sold the T-shirts" if we wanted to, but this would change what the speaker is saying: in this case, the speaker would be talking about selling specific T-shirts that we know about. We could qualify them and say Vendiste las camisetas que quería comprar “(You) sold the T-shirts that (I) wanted to buy."

The phrase enviábamos dinero “(we) were sending money” follows the same principle: because there is no article, we know that the speaker is talking about sending non-specific money. We could add an article (i.e. enviábamos el dinero “(we) were sending the money”), but then then we'd be talking about money that we know about. We could specify exactly what money that is by describing it a little further: Enviábamos el dinero que necesitaba “(We) were sending the money that (he) needed.” 

In the other two phrases which contain definite articles, cobras el sueldo mínimo “you charge minimum wage” and como navegar el ciberespacio “how to navigate cyberspace,” the article is present not because of the verbs, but because we're talking about the general ideas or concepts of minimum wage and cyberspace. 

I hope that this helps - do let me know if you still have any questions!



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