How Does "The" Translate Into Spanish?

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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