Gramática: Artículos indefinidos y definidos / Hay

Objetivos

  • Select the appropriate definite or indefinite article for the context
Movie poster for El Laberinto del Fauno

Definite articles (the) are used with specific nouns. They also tell us whether a noun is masculine or feminine AND plural or singular. They can be expressed in four ways:

masculino femenino
singular el la
plural los las
  • ¿Quién es la profesora de español? (Who is the Spanish professor?)
  • Necesito el libro de español. (I need the Spanish book.)
Movie poster for Un amor en tiempos de Selfies-- A man leaning on a giant cellphone. There is a picture of a woman on the phone.
Movie poster for Unas Preguntas showing two women marching with signs

Indefinite articles (a / an / some) are used with nouns that are not specific or have not been previously mentioned. Their forms also reveal whether a noun is masculine or feminine AND plural or singular. Indefinite articles can be expressed in four ways:

masculino femenino
singular un una
plural unos unas
  • Hay una pizarra en el salón de clase. (There is a chalkboard in the classroom.)
  • Hay unos papeles en mi mochila. (There are some papers in my backpack.)

El verbo hay

Hay comes from the verb haber  and it means “there is.” However, hay is the only form used in the present tense for both singular and plural descriptions, so it also means “there are.”

Writing on the sidewalk reads: Sin maíz no hay pais.
  • Hay una profesora en la clase. (There is one professor in the class.)
  • Hay treinta estudiantes en la clase. (There are 30 students in the class.)
  • Hay un reloj en la pared. (There’s a clock on the wall.)
  • Hay dos pizarras. (There are two blackboards.)
  • ¿Qué hay en tu mochila? (What is in your backpack?)

When making negative statements, the article is usually not included after the verb:

  • En mi cuarto, no hay cortinas. (In my bedroom there aren’t any curtains.)
  • No hay una cartera en su mochila. (There’s no wallet in her backpack.)

Hay is never followed by the definite article (el, la, los, las), only by indefinite articles, numbers or adjectives of quantity, or just nouns.

  • Hay un papel en mi pupitre. (There is a paper on my desk.)
  • Hay 20 estudiantes en la clase de español. (There are 20 students in the Spanish class.)
  • Hay muchas chicas y pocos chicos en la clase. (There are a lot of girls and few boys in the class.)
  • Hay problemas con el Wifi. (There are problems with the Wifi.)

Here’s a quick video to help you explore the use of “hay” further:

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