A contraction is a phenomenon where two words are combined into one.
There are only 2 contractions in the Spanish language: “al” and “del”.
“al” is a contraction that happens when we would have the preposition “a” followed by the article “el”.
“del” is a contraction that happens when we would have the preposition “de” followed by the article “el”.
Expressing them as formulas:
- a + el = al
- de + el = del
Aside for an exception that we will see in a moment, you always have to write the contraction in those cases. It is wrong to not do the contraction.
Vamos al supermercado Vamos a el supermercado
¿Conoces al jefe? ¿Conoces a el jefe?
Vengo del cine Vengo de el cine
Es la hermana del profesor Es la hermana de el profesor
There is an exception where you can’t do the contractions: when the article “El” is capitalized. In that case, the contractions “al” and “del” can’t be done:
Vamos a viajar a El Salvador. = We are going to travel to El Salvador
(No contraction, because El Salvador is the name of a country and El is capitalized).
Tolkien es el autor de El Señor de los Anillos. = Tolkien is the author of The Lord of the Rings.
(No contraction, because El Señor de los Anillos is the name of the book and the El is capitalized).