The indefinite article: un, una, unos and unas - Easy Learning Grammar Spanish
1 The basic rules
- In English, the indefinite article is a, which changes to an when it comes before a vowel or a vowel sound, for example, an apple. In the plural, we use some or any.
- In Spanish, you have to choose between four indefinite articles: un, una, unos and unas. Which one you choose depends on the noun that follows.
- In Spanish, all nouns (including words for things) are either masculine or feminine – this is called their gender. And, just as in English, they can also be either singular or plural. You must bear this in mind when deciding which Spanish word to use for a.
- For more information on Nouns, see Nouns.
- un is used before masculine singular nouns.
|un niño||a boy|
|un periódico||a newspaper|
- una is used before feminine singular nouns.
|una niña||a girl|
|una revista||a magazine|
- unos is used before masculine plural nouns.
|unos niños||some boys|
|unos periódicos||some newspapers|
- unas is used before feminine plural nouns.
|unas niñas||some girls|
|unas revistas||some magazines|
- Note that you use un instead of una immediately before a feminine singular word beginning with a or ha when the stress falls on the beginning of the word. This is because una sounds wrong before the ‘a’ sound. BUT if you add an adjective in front of the noun, you use una instead, since the two ‘a’ sounds do not come next to each other.
|un ave migratoria||a migratory bird|
|una extensa área||a wide area|
2 Using the indefinite article
- The indefinite article is often used in Spanish in the same way as it is in English. However, there are some cases where the article is not used in Spanish but is in English, and vice versa.
- The indefinite article is NOT used in Spanish:
- when you say what someone’s job is
|Es profesor.||He’s a teacher.|
|Mi madre es enfermera.||My mother is a nurse.|
- after tener, buscar, or llevar (puesto) when you are only likely to have, be looking for or be wearing one of the items in question
|No tengo coche.||I haven’t got a car.|
|¿Llevaba sombrero?||Was he wearing a hat?|
- Note that when you use an adjective to describe the noun, you DO use an article in Spanish too.
|Es un buen médico.||He’s a good doctor.|
|Tiene una novia española.||He has a Spanish girlfriend.|
|Busca un piso pequeño.||He’s looking for a little flat.|
- The indefinite article is NOT used in Spanish with the words otro, cierto, cien, mil, sin, and qué.
|otro libro||another book|
|cierta calle||a certain street|
|cien soldados||a hundred soldiers|
|mil años||a thousand years|
|sin casa||without a house|
|¡Qué sorpresa!||What a surprise!|
- The indefinite article IS used in Spanish but NOT in English when an abstract noun, such as inteligencia (meaning intelligence) or tiempo (meaning time) has an adjective with it.
|Posee una gran inteligencia.||He possesses great intelligence.|
- Before masculine singular nouns → use un.
- Before feminine singular nouns → use una.
- Before feminine singular nouns starting with stressed a or ha → use un.
- Before masculine plural nouns → use unos.
- Before feminine plural nouns → use unas.
- You do not use an indefinite article in Spanish for saying what someone’s job is.
- You do not use an indefinite article in Spanish with the words otro, cierto, cien, mil, sin, and qué.