Unit 4: More present tense verbs and personal a

4.5 Omission of the Indefinite Article

The indefinite article is at times omitted in Spanish when it is used in English. In these cases, or when the English sounds awkward or incorrect, merely add the indefinite article to your translation. The common cases in which Spanish omits the indefinite article are:

1. Before a profession unmodified by an adjective:

Su padre es ingeniero. His father is an engineer.
Soy médica. ¿Y Ud.? I’m a doctor. And you?

But it is used when the noun is modified:

Su madre es una médica buena. His mother is a good doctor.

2. Before certain adjectives:

Cierto hombre desea su presencia. A certain man desires your presence.
No hago tal/ semejante cosa. I don’t do such a thing.
Leen otro libro. They’re reading another book.

3. In an exclamation, after Qué:

¡Qué día largo! What a long day!
¡Qué clase difícil es! What a difficult class it is!

4. Because of the ambiguity between the number one (uno) and the indefinite article, the latter is often omitted when the meaning is “a” or “an”:

¿Tienes carro? Do you have a car?
¿Tiene novio? Does he/she have a boyfriend?

To insert the indefinite article un in the above sentences could imply “one car” or “one boyfriend” versus two.


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