‘Los’ vs ‘las’

In short Las’ and ‘los’ are definite articles used to refer to plural nouns. ‘Las’ is used exclusively with feminine plural nouns and ‘los’ is used with masculine plural nouns.

Simple, right?

Well, kinda … because ‘los’ is ALSO considered “neutral”, so it might also refer to mixed groups of masculine AND feminine nouns.

This is where it gets a bit trickier, but don’t fret because you’ll find everything you need to know about these two super common Spanish words right here in this lil’ article!

Let’s jump right into it!

*Just a quick note!

Los’ and ‘las’ can also be “direct object pronouns” (i.e., pronouns used to replace the direct object of a sentence).

Las (Juana y Karla) entrevisté ayer. = I interviewed them (Juana and Karla) yesterday.

Los (dos amigos) ví anoche. = I saw them (two male friends) yesterday.

HOWEVER, in this article we’ll mainly focus on ‘los’ and ‘las’ as definite articles.

Los’ vs ‘las

In Spanish all nouns have a specific gender, so ‘estrella’ (or ‘star’ in English) and ‘mesa’ (‘table’) are feminine, while ‘cielo’ (‘sky’ or ‘heaven’) and ‘agua’ (‘water’) are masculine.

Now, just as in English, we use something called the “definite article” when referring to a noun that is already known to the listener / reader.

So, in English we’d say –

THE cat jumped over THE wall.

And in Spanish that’d be –

EL gato saltó LA pared.

So, as you can see, the definite article in English is ‘the’ and, well, it never changes (we don’t say ‘thes’ if the noun is plural, for example!).

In Spanish, however, the definite article has to agree in both gender AND number with the noun in question –

el = masculine singular nouns

la = feminine singular nouns

los = masculine plural nouns

las = feminine plural nouns

Of course, this particular aspect of the Spanish language is rather hard for English-speakers (after all, we only have one definite article!), so don’t get discouraged if you get some articles wrong at times; it’s entirely normal and you’ll definitely get the hang of it with a little patience and a lot of practice!

Anyway, let’s get back to ‘los’ and ‘las’ and, well, as I already mentioned, they’re both used to talk about PLURAL nouns –

las lombrices = the worms

 los lápices = the pencils

‘Las’ is used exclusively with feminine nouns –

las mesas = the tables

las personas = the people

While ‘los’ is used to refer to masculine nouns –

los perros = the dogs

los huesos = the bones

BUTlos’ can also be “neutral”, meaning that it’s also used to refer to mixed groups of men and women, or groups of masculine and feminine nouns.

As an example, let’s take a look at a group of teachers –

Las maestras llegaron tarde hoy.

The teachers arrived late today.

‘Las maestras’ refers to a group of female teachers

Los maestros llegaron tarde hoy.

The teachers arrived late today.

‘Los maestros’ may refer to a group of male teachers OR a group of female and male teachers

There’s an ongoing public debate about ‘los’ being a neutral article.

Many people think that the addition of a truly neutral article is necessary to create a more inclusive language, whilst academics and other conservative groups remain reluctant.

You might come across people who are already using ‘les’ as a neutral article, but it’s still not widespread enough for it to be considered official.

Anyway, let’s take a look at ‘los’ and ‘las’ in action –

Los payasos (neutral) se veían muy chistosos.

The clowns look really funny.

La anfitriona del coctel pidió a los hombres (masculine plural) portar una corbata verde.

The hostess of the cocktail party asked the men to wear a green tie.

Todas las chamacas* (feminine plural) se disfrazaron de superheroínas.

All the girls dressed up as superheroines.

*Erika’s note – ‘chamaca’ is another word for ‘girl’ in Mexican Spanish.

Generic nouns

Now, there’s another key difference between definite articles in Spanish and English, and that’s how they’re used with so-called “generic nouns”, which are basically nouns that refer to an entire group or a concept as a whole –

Ellos lucharon por los derechos humanos.

They fought for human rights.

La única cosa más cara que la educación es la ignorancia.

The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.

Do you see what happens in the Spanish examples?

There are definite articles before ‘derechos humanos’, ‘educación’ and ‘ignorancia’ which just aren’t needed in English!

This is actually quite a nuanced topic and there are plenty of exceptions, but very often we use definite articles with “generic nouns” in Spanish when we wouldn’t in English!

Los’ and ‘las’ as direct object pronouns

Finally, you’ll also come across ‘los’ and ‘las’ functioning as direct object pronouns.

We use ‘los’ to replace masculine plural nouns and ‘las’ to replace feminine plural nouns.


Federico – ¿Qué piensas de tus hermanas?

Laila – Las admiro muchísimo.

Federico – What do you think of your sisters?

Laila – I really admire them.

Brenda – ¿Has visto mis lentes?

Mateo – Los ví ayer sobre el escritorio.

Brenda – Have you seen my glasses?

Mateo – I saw them on the desk yesterday.

Expressions with ‘los’ / ‘las

Salió más caro el caldo que las albóndigas

Literally, this fun Mexican saying translates as ‘the broth was more expensive than the meatballs’, which in layman’s terms means that something just ain’t worth the effort!

Los niños y los borrachos siempre dicen la verdad

This is another popular saying that translates to ‘children and drunk people always tell the truth’.

It’s mostly used when a friend gets a bit tipsy and says something inappropriate yet sincere.

If you wanna learn more fun (and pretty darn wise!) Mexican sayings, then definitely check out our comprehensive article on all the different refranes.

Final thoughts

Hopefully you’ll now feel more confident when using ‘los’ and ‘las’.

Just keep in mind that nouns and their articles always have to agree in gender and number, and you’ll be gold!

Oh, and if you want to continue levelling up your Spanish grammar skills, then head on over to our article on su’ and ‘sus next (yep, another tricky pair of words!).

¡Hasta pronto!

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