Spanish Grammar Guide

Determiners (e.g.: un, una, el, la, los, las, mi, nuestros, este, aquellos)

In this section: Description, Questions, Exercises


Questions about Determiners

Q: Why is it una clase and NOT un clase?

R: The word clase is feminine and must therefore be preceded by a feminine determiner (e.g.: una, esta, la). You may need to review the gender of common nouns.

Q: Why is it Paul ama a la mujer and NOT Paul ama al mujer?

R: It doesn’t matter whether the person who is writing (or speaking) is a man or a woman. The gender of the determiner depends on the following noun (the thing or person being modified). So, for example if a boy named Paul is talking about his mother, he will refer to her as la mujer since the word mujer is feminine. On the other hand, one writes Paul ama al perro (since the word perro is masculine).  You might need to review the gender of common nouns and make sure you learn a noun's gender when you learn the meaning of the noun.

Q: Why is it las personas and NOT la personas?

R: Like English, Spanish indicates plural nouns by adding an -s or -es to the noun. For example, in English, one writes three books and in Spanish one writes tres libros. It is important to note that, unlike English, Spanish indicates the plural on the preceeding determiners as well. Consider the following sentence: She returned the books which translates as Ella devolvió los libros. As you can see, there are two markers for the plural in Spanish (los, the determiner, and -s on the end of the noun).

Q: Why is it el agua and NOT la agua?

R: Spanish doesn't allow two stressed "a" vowels to be pronounced between words. This means that singular feminine nouns that begin with a stressed "a" (agua, ágila, hacha, remember that the letter 'h' is silent in Spanish) will use the masculine singular definite article el, rather than the feminine la in order to avoid the two stressed "a" sounds occurring together.

Q: Why is it ella se lava las manos and NOT ella lava sus manos?

R: With body parts, use the reflexive verb lavarse. Note also that the determiner should be las rather than the possessive determiner sus. You may need to review reflexive verbs.

Q: Why is it es el mío and NOT es el mi?

R: Determiners always come before nouns, they never come at the end of a sentence. To say "mine" instead of "my", use a possessive pronoun (el mío).

Q: Why is it me gustan estas faldas and NOT me gustan éstas faldas or me gustanestás faldas?

R: Remember that the demonstrative determiners do NOT have accents but the demonstrative pronouns and some forms of the verb estar do have accents to distinguish these forms from one another and mark the stress in pronunciation. Review both the verb estar and demonstrative pronouns if you are unsure which ones have accents and when.


Tags: elision determiners articles nouns masculine feminine
In this section: Description, Questions, Exercises

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