The neutral article ‘lo’

(Usage and function of the neutral article ‘lo’)

Table of contents – neutral article ‘lo’

On this page you will find the following:

  1. ‘lo’ in nominalizations
  2. Additional functions of ‘lo’
  3. Further explanations and exercises

How is the article ‘lo’ used with nominalization?

Besides the definite and indefinite articles, Spanish has the articlelo’, which is considered neutral. However, this designation has nothing to do with the grammatical gender being neutral or neuter, although masculine and feminine genders do exist in Spanish. Unlike ‘la’ and ‘el’, ‘lo’ rarely precedes an original noun; instead, it appears before nominalized parts of speech or words. In detail:

Note: The articlelo’ does not depend on the grammatical gender of the antecedent, the word it refers to. Additionally, it is never inflected (it has no other forms) and thus has no plural form. The word ‘los’ is not the plural of ‘lo’ but of the definite article ‘el’.

  • As the neutral article, ‘lo’ transforms certain parts of speech into nouns. These include adjectives, participles, possessive pronouns, and ordinal numbers. Examples:
    • “Todo lo escrito en la carta es muy importante.” (Everything written in the letter is very important.)
      • The participleescrito’ (written) is a noun here.
    • Lo bueno es que no tenemos que pagar nada.” (The good thing is that we don’t have to pay for anything.)
      • Here, the adjectivebueno’ (good) is nominalized.
    • “No decir nada sería lo más fácil.” (To say nothing would be the easiest thing to do.)
      • Together with ‘lo’, compared adjectives, such as the superlativemás fácil’ (easiest) here, can also occur as nouns.
    • “Te deseo todo lo mejor y mucha suerte.” (I wish you all the best and good luck.)
      • In this statement, it is a companion of an irregular superlative (as ‘mejor’ of ‘bueno’ here).
    • “Sabemos que lo tuyo son los idiomas extranjeros.” (We know that foreign languages are your forte.)
      • The possessive pronountuyo’ becomes a noun here.
    • Lo primero que hay que hacer es cortar las patatas.” (The first thing that needs to be done is to cut the potatoes.)
      • In this sentence, the ordinal number ‘primero’ (first) is a nominalization.

Which functions can ‘lo’ have apart from an article?

Besides the combination with a nominalized word, ‘lo’ has additional functions. In this respect, its role cannot always be classified clearly and may differ from that of an article. Compare the possibilities:

  1. lo’ can be utilized stylistically for emphasis. Example:
    • “Es increíble lo rápido que habla.” (It’s incredible how fast she speaks.)
      • Here, the construction ‘lo’ and the adverb ‘rápido’ (fast) intensify the message.
  2. Furthermore, ‘lo que’ and its variant ‘lo cual’ are used as relative pronouns. They then refer to another clause or a previous sentence or statement. Examples:
    • Lo que tú dices no es verdad.” (What you say is not true.)
      • Here, it is at the beginning of the sentence, referring to a previous utterance.
    • “Fue increíble lo que me contó el policía.” (It was unbelievable what the policeman told me.)
      • Here, it appears in the middle of the sentence.
    • “Esta compañía ha despedido a 200 empleados, lo cual no parece muy justo.” (This company has laid off 200 employees, which doesn’t seem very fair.)
      • The alternative ‘lo cual’ can usually be used equally. Here, it refers to the first part of the sentence (the main clause).
  3. Particularly in spoken language, it is very typical at the beginning of a sentence to emphasize the verb in the statement. Example:
    • Lo que quiero decir es que no me gusta tu desorden.” (What I want to say is that I don’t like your untidiness.)

Information: The word ‘lo’ can also be an object pronoun itself:

  • “Claro que lo hago.” (Of course, I’ll do it.)
    • In this utterance, ‘lo’ replaces a previously mentioned piece of information and is translated into English as ‘it’.

Further explanations related to the ‘Neutral article ‘lo’

The following explanations are related to the grammar topic ‘Usage and function of the neutral articlelo’ in Spanish’ and are also helpful: