The smaller words are the most difficult to master in a foreign language. El, la, los, las (the), the definite articles in Spanish, are particularly confusing for English speakers because very often their use in English doesn’t correspond to their use in Spanish. Let´s summarize here some rules that we can apply and which will make our lives (in Spanish) easier:
IN SPANISH WE NEED THE DEFINITE ARTICLES EL, LA, LOS, LAS...
1. ) WITH NOUNS USED IN A GENERAL SENSE
La comida de Andalucía es deliciosa. Food from Andalusia is delicious.
2.) WITH ABSTRACT NOUNS
Queremos la paz. We want peace.
3.) WITH DAYS OF THE WEEK
In cases where English would use “on” before a day of the week, Spanish uses a definite article.
Trabajo los lunes I work Mondays
EXCEPTION: When the day of the week comes after SER and in English you would not use “on,” no article is used.
Hoy es lunes. Today is Monday.
4.) WITH NAMES OF LANGUAGES
El francés suena muy bien. French sounds very nice.
EXCEPTION: When the language functions as the object of the verb
Estudio japonés. I study Japanese.
5.) WITH PARTS OF THE BODY
Me duele la espalda. My back hurts.
6.) WHEN TALKING ABOUT SOMEONE WITH A TITLE (e.g. SEÑORA, SEÑOR, DOCTORA…)
La Señora Clinton fue Secretaria de Estado. Mrs Clinton was Secretary of State.
The key here is not to get frustrated. Remember that you don´t need to have perfect articles to communicate successfully. This is a finer point of Spanish grammar, so don’t expect to master it overnight!