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- ¿Qué quiere Elisa?
- Elisa quiere dinero.

Shouldn't we add "el" before "dinero"?

As I know, there are 3 cases we are not using definite articles.

  1. With titles when addressing a person, or with San, Santo/a, Don, and Doña

  2. With nouns referring to academic subjects

  3. With ordinal numbers in titles

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    el dinero and dinero have different meanings in this context: dinero is something general, whereas el dinero refers to something particular the speaker and the listener may know about. Compare she wants money and she wants the money. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Jul 21 '16 at 11:08
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    Short answer: same difference as between "Elisa wants money" and "Elisa wants the money". In the second sentence... Oh, well, @fedorqui got there before me. :) – Charlie Jul 21 '16 at 11:09
  • You have an answer in a very similar question. – Charlie Jul 21 '16 at 11:16
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There are different meanings depending on what you want to put emphasis on. It's the same as in English:

Elisa quiere dinero = Elisa wants money

Elisa quiere el dinero = Elisa wants the money

The difference is that in the first case you are just talking about money, in a generic way. In the second you are talking about a specific money, a definite money, so that's why you need the definite article.

Just a note: In Chile we do use the definite article when referring to a person in colloquial situations, always when talking about a third person.

Estoy esperando a la Daniela

Ando buscando al Jorge

As said before we use this in colloquial situations. I believe I have heard this somewhere else outside Chile but I'm not sure.

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    In some regions of Spain it is also typical to say la Daniela, but mainly because of the mixing with Catalan speakers, because in that language the article is used with names. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Jul 21 '16 at 13:27
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    In some regions of Bolivia (the Andean region and nearby areas) the use of articles before names is the usual. I believe that is because in the native language in those regions (quechua) the names has to be preceded by gender articles. However, this not happen in the low lands, Amazonian region. Money: quite often we refer as plata to money: Lo que Daniela quiere es plata! (She is trying to get some, any money) Lo que Daniela quiere es su plata (We owe Daniela money, and she want it back) – Delonix R. Jul 22 '16 at 12:11
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    It happens in Guatemala too, but only among friends, and only women. – Cascabel Jul 22 '16 at 20:29
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Note: there are also indefinite articles, we can't forget that. When something is defined, it is also, in every sense of the word, definite.

Consider this:

The Moose

Using a definite article allows the reader to understand which particular moose you are referring to: The blue moose, the moose in front of you, the moose from Texas that you almost killed with your car. The moose is defined. To say, the moose means you and the reader know which moose is being spoken of/written about.

Jonathan was overwhelmed by the moose with boxing gloves.

Shiela resorted to poking the moose with a stick.

We definitely know which moose overwhelmed Jonathan, just like we definitely know which moose Shiela decided to start poking.

A Moose

Using an indefinite article allows the reader to understand that you're just referring to the general object and also that there may or may not be more of them. A blue moose doesn't necessarily mean there is only one moose that is blue, just like A dead moose doesn't mean that all moose are dead, but rather, there is at least one.

For Halloween, Jason dressed up like a moose.

Every Christmas, my brother and I receive an egg with a chocolate moose in it.

Before we knew it, a moose entered the room.

We do not exactly know which moose Jason dressed up as, or which chocolate moose is in the egg, nor do we know which moose entered the room.

Though, once it has entered the room, people will refer to it as the moose.

Moose

Then there is just the use of the word. In this case, there is no need to mark the noun as defined or not defined, because it is just an object now. It's there in the sentence to act as just that, an object.

We eat moose

Taylor leaves tomorrow morning to hunt moose.

In some cases, it can be an indirect object

Tim wears a sporty jacket made from moose.


I know this entire answer and all examples are in English, but the same rules apply to Spanish usage and distinction between a definite and indefinite article. Anyway, I'll provide a Spanish snippet if it makes everyone happy.

Consider: pastel

Maria come pastel

Maria come un pastel

Maria come el pastel

The same rules from my English examples above apply here. The first sentence simply implies that Maria eats cake, and that's all we know. In the second sentence, Maria eats a cake. This suggests there is more than or at least one cake being eaten, The first sentence defines a cake, a particular cake. The cake on the table; the cake next to the cheese; the cake made with bacon.

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  • This is very useful. And I love moose! – Vladimir Nul Jul 22 '16 at 2:41
  • This is a great answer but is all in English !!. I think this belongs to another SE. I thought @yashirq was learning Spanish. :-) – DGaleano Jul 22 '16 at 13:38
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    I provided my answer in English because, a) The OP's question was in English, and b) English and Spanish share the same rules for definite/indefinite articles. – dockeryZ Jul 22 '16 at 20:12
  • Now the OP understands the rules are the same in both languages and learned something about Spanish. +1 – DGaleano Jul 22 '16 at 20:43
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I really don't know where did you get those three cases you mention in your question from:

  1. The first one is true, OK, but you don't need the title; you don't use an article with a person's name, regardless of whether it includes some title or not.
  2. The second is false (e.g.: Me gusta la Historia, or Las matemáticas son difíciles).
  3. The third one is addressed at English speakers, I guess, because in English you would say Richard the Third, while in Spanish it is Ricardo Tercero. But adjectives usually have no article in front of them, so this is no exception.

Now, in your example, dinero is the direct object. In this case, a noun has no article when it is used in a generic way. When you say:

Elisa quiere dinero.

You mean that she wants some money, but you are not specifying how much or if you are talking about some specific money.

You could also say:

Elisa quiere el dinero.

In this case, she would be wanting some specific money that is known about. For instance, money she is due for some reason. She does not just want some money: she specifically wants that amount she is due. Hence the definite article.

This is not very different from English; the main different is that in Spanish this is true for nouns working as direct object, but not as subject, while in English this would work in both positions. For instance:

Deberías comer manzanas --> You should eat apples

Las manzanas son buenas para la salud --> Apples are good for your health

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