Why do we say

el cepillo del pelo


el cepillo de dientes

rather than

el cepillo de los dientes

  • We don't say "cepillo del pelo" because that would mean that hair has a brush. If you say cepillo del coche or cepillo de la cocina, those would be brushes that belong to the car and kitchen respectively. That are used in those places and not others.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 16:12

3 Answers 3


Cepillo de dientes is a recognizable, often-used expression that points to a specific kind of object that is also used often, so it works as a fixed phrase. It's the kind of phrase that in a language like English or German would tend to form a single-word compound. In Spanish cepillo de dientes forms a three-word nominal phrase that goes together as if it were a single noun, and you cannot change its parts (e.g. you cannot say cepillo de los dientes or cepillo para dientes; it would be understood but sounds very odd). You also have pasta de dientes ("toothpaste"), which is also a fixed phrase, and these two in a way reinforce each other.

The thing one uses for brushing one's hair is called cepillo alone in most cases, just as the thing one uses for brushing clothes or fabric or the fur of one's pet. Cepillo is a very general term and it covers all that. You add a specifier like de la ropa or para el pelo only when the context doesn't make it clear, and these specifiers work like normal Spanish phrases: you can change them a bit, since they don't form fixed phrases.

In the end there's no reason, as such, why some expressions are fixed in a way and not in another, and some other expressions are freer; you just have to learn them as they come.

  • I was about to say the same about pets. However, it's true it's still weird. Shall we think it's just "for lazyness"? Adding an "l" (de→del) makes no difference in no. os syllables, but adding "los" does.
    – FGSUZ
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 15:27

Unlike English, the use of articles or prepositions in Spanish do not bear any resemblance — it may in some cases, but this is not a rule; we do, nevertheless, use set phrases when it comes to article or preposition placing.

As stated by Pablo's answer, you'll have to learn these set expressions as part of phrases; although, if it's of any consolation, this is the same problem with which we, as non-native speakers, have to deal as part of our English language learning.

  • The Spanish nouns with de signal a noun in English or an adjective, which are closely linked in function. I really do not understand why my answer was downvoted. I guess people are not interested in the actual mechanisms of the two languages.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 19:28
  • cepillo de dientes, toothbrush,
  • cuarto de baño, bathroom
  • casa de playa, beach house
  • cuarto de invitados (dormitorio), guest room

If you use 'de', it means what comes after it is specifically connected to the function of the noun, as opposed to 'del' or 'de la'. It is connected to a specific quality of the noun.

If you say mi casa de playa, you mean your beach house, which is not a casa de la playa, which would imply the beach has a house.

For example: la ropa de la chica, the clothes that belong to the girl (some girl, in a conversation); whereas ropa de chica, girls' clothes, as opposed to boys' clothes.

This is just an explanation for a beginner.

  • [correction; Why does X belong to Y?] A hairbrush is a cepillo de pelo. kissbel.es/blog/cepillo-de-pelo And not del pelo. Are you not interested in the underlying logic that I explained? cepillo de dientes, también. not: de los dientes or del diente.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 15:57
  • Using site:.es (for Spanish from Spain), cepillo de pelo gets: About 380,000 results (0.55 seconds) // cepillo del pelo gets: About 17,800 results (0.42 seconds). Y la razón lingüística está en mi respuesta.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 13:50
  • A few other countries, like Colombia: site:.co cepillo de pelo: About 66,200 results (0.61 seconds); cepillo del pelo: About 2,490 results (0.62 seconds) and Argentina (site:.ar), cepillo de pelo: About 71,100 results (0.59 seconds); cepillo del pelo: bout 4,710 results (0.53 seconds
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 13:54
  • Según las estatísticas arriba, sí. Pero no está bien. Y por eso hay muchíssimo más de y no del. Ocorrencias en si no explican nada. cepillo del pelo, entonces, con la misma lógica: cepillo del suelo. Y claro "cepillo del suelo", no va, sería cepillo de suelo; cepillo de uñas, etc. Porque los cepillos no hacen parte del pelo, ni del suelo ni de las uñas.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 15:23

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