I learned from my teacher that indefinite articles (un, una) are used only before modified nouns, that is nouns followed by adjectives.

Does this apply to definite articles (el, la)?

Another situation is when you use "llegar a ser" in place of just ser. This is when you don't have to use indefinite article.

  • I think you mean in your question that your teacher told you that the indefinite article doesn't normally come after the verb ser for unmodified nouns. That'll greatly change the answers you get. Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 15:10
  • Indefinite articles are also used before proper nouns. You wouldn't say President(presidente). You would say The President(el presidente). Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 1:08

4 Answers 4


indefinite articles (un, una) are used only before modified nouns, that is nouns followed by adjectives.

I think that this is not true.

A modified noun with "una":

una casa roja
(=a red house)

An unmodified noun with "una":

una casa 
(=a house)

Both sentences are perfectly valid in Spanish. And, regarding modified and unmodified nouns, definite articles behave like indefinite ones, there is no difference:

A modified noun with "la":

la casa roja 
(=the red house)

An unmodified noun with "la":

la casa 
(=the house)
  • Sorry I got not enough pts to vote up.
    – user11355
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 19:56
  • It does not matter... :) You can mark it as accepted Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 14:58

I am guessing what your teacher meant to say was that after the verb ser (or one of its forms) you only use an indefinite article with a noun that is modified with a descriptive adjective or an adjectival phrase. For example: Ella es doctora. (She is a doctor.) Ella es una doctora que vive en el campo. (She is a doctor that lives in the country) or Ella es una doctora muy buena. (She is a very good doctor.) That rule of only using the indefinite article before a modified noun only applies with the verb ser. This was taken from information presented in a college grammar workbook written by Conrad Schmitt (Schaum's outline series) through the company McGraw Hill. I don't know the copyright year but it would have been in the 1980s.

  • 1
    Welcome to the site! Note that we say "eso es un coche" and not "eso es coche". Or "su tienda es una frutería" and not "su tienda es frutería". Or even "Juan es un niño", and not "Juan es niño". I guess that rule from the book only applies to professions...
    – wimi
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 8:06

I'm not a language teacher nor a linguist but I think your teacher is wrong or you missunderstood something.

I've seen a dog

He visto un perro

Perro is not a modified noun (appart from being indefinite) there but it is not a particular dog so we use indefinite article.

I've seen the (same than last week) dog

He visto el perro

For the second situation you mention, I don't understand your question, sorry. But I can say that llegar a ser (that is, become) accepts both definite and indefinite direct objects:

I've become the best lawyer of New York

He llegado a ser el mejor abogado de Nueva York.

I've become a good lawyer at New York.

He llegado a ser un buen abogado en Nueva York.

  • Can you address llegar a ser? Thanks
    – user11355
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 19:56

indefinite articles (un, una) are used only before modified nouns, that is nouns followed by adjectives.


The usage, as well as the difference in usage, of definite and indefinite articles has no dependency on whether or not the following word is a modified noun or a noun. They're both the same thing, a noun.

'Modified Noun` is itself, a modified noun.

Still, it is a noun at the end of the day.

Definite articles, like el and la , are used to define a particular object or subject. It conveys singularity, while the indefinite articles: un and una suggest there are more than one of this subject/object.

These rules are exactly the same in English.

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