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Articles a/an/the

When to use the indefinite article a and when to use the definite article the depends mostly on how specific you want to be. During a wedding ceremony the groom would say, "Give me the ring! The wedding ring!" because he must have a particular ring, while a carpenter would say, ‘Hand me a nail" because he doesn’t care which nail in the box he uses. Usually the bigger problem is not whether to use a definite or indefinite article, but whether to use an article at all.

So many choices! When do you use a? When do you use an? When do you use the? But relax. We’ll guide the way. We already talked about when to use a when to use an in the article Give me an "A": a vs. an, but we’ll give you a few more examples here.

  • A: you use this when you’re not necessarily referring to a specific thing (such as a nail, any nail). It’s called an indefinite article, because you’re not being definite or particular. There are many nails in this big world. She owns a cat. I work on a golf course.
  • An: it’s used just like a, but when preceding a vowel sound. It probably comes from Old German, on which Old English was based. My theory is that the use of an survives after all these centuries because it sounds better before vowels. Saying, "I want a apple" sounds odd, compared to, "I want an apple." For the same reason, the fake French sentence, "À Anne, on en a un," sounds even more odd. May I borrow an egg? He is an arrogant critic.
  • The: you’re talking about a definite item, which is why the is called a definite article. Of course it only makes sense if both you and your listeners know which item you mean. If I commanded you, "Give me the money," you would rightfully ask, "What money? I don’t owe you any money." The house on that corner once belonged to Charles Dickens. The weather is very pleasant today.
  • You can use the the second time you refer to something, even if you used an the first time. We know what you’re referring to, because you just told us. You can do this, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Read these examples – repeating the noun might sound monotonous. We visited a palace on our vacation. The palace was built in 1546. We also went to a concert. The concert was too loud for me.
  • When it comes to geography, you don’t use the before the names of most nations, provinces, states,lakes or islands. But there are many exceptions: the United States, the Ukraine, or the Congo. On the other hand, the Ukrainians and Congolese people I’ve met say, "Ukraine" and "Congo," so go figure. If the name refers to plural items, such as the United States, or the Maldives, you would use the definite article. You would do the same for rivers and oceans, such as the Amazon, the Nile, and the Caspian Sea. Bays need the definite article. He moved to Nepal near Mount Everest. They spent their honeymoon in eastern Maine, on Penobscot Bay.
  • Unlike some languages such as French and Spanish, English sometimes does not use any article at all. You don’t need one when making a general statement, or when talking about meals and transportation. I prefer folk music. She hates making noodles. She eats breakfast at home. She traveled to college by train.
  • British writers don’t use an article for some places that Americans would. British: I go to university. American: I go to college. American: I transfered to the university last year. British: I felt so ill that I went to hospital. American: I got so sick I had to go to the hospital.
  • Some rules apply all the time. Some rules apply only in certain situations, and only experience and reading can help you get them all right. And some rules apply only in certain situations in certain cultures: British and American English is sometimes different, as you may have learned by now.
The articles are a part of the word group called the determiners
use a before nouns beginning with consonant sounds
use an before nouns beginning with vowel sounds.
Don't use an indefinite article directly before an uncountable noun.
Be careful with your articles. One small change can change the whole meaning!

I am not in a mood.
I am not in the mood.
The/the a/an Yes, that's right. I have written the twice. In a way there are two of each. The two 'the's both happen to be spelt the same. But listen and you will hear that they are not pronounced the same way. They work just like a and an in that they harmonise or connect with the next sound in the sentence. Just as we use a before a consonant sound and an before a vowel sound, we use @mother @tree before vowel sounds and @mother @computer before consonant sounds.


  1. Please pass the milk. @correct
  2. I am going to jump into the water. @correct

The indefinite article

A needle in a haystack

  1. If the following word starts with a consonant sound then a is used as the determiner...
  1. a hundred
  2. a thousand
  3. a dozen
  4. There were three men and a woman.

An activity an hour

@cat @nose
  1. an easy question
  2. an interesting story
  3. an orange
  4. an honour

The definite article

The @mother @tree apples the @mother@tree
@mother@computer bananas

The is pronounced in two ways according to the sound which immediately follows

  1. If the following word starts with a consonant then The is pronounced like this...
    @mother @computer
  2. If the following word starts with a vowel then The is pronounced like this...


Speak about each animal, first using the indefinite article and then the definite article. Choose either 'a' or 'an' and when the animal name begins with a vowel sound, pronounce 'the' with an -ee- sound (long -e-) @TREE If the animal name begins with a consonant sound, pronounce 'the' with a schwa sound. @COMPUTER .


Some common forms with the definite article

  1. Most + (noun)
  2. The + most + (long adjective)
  3. That + noun + (zero article)

When to use 'the' - Rules for the definite article in English Grammar

When the object or group of objects is unique or considered to be unique
  • the Earth (earth (without the) means soil from the ground or garden)
  • the sea (The word 'sea' alone, does not determine the noun exactly because it could be A particular sea or the sea in general );
  • the sky ;
  • the Equator ;
  • the stars. (stars without the means Some stars, but 'The stars' refers to all the stars)

General comodities or substances without 'THE'

Notice how general objects don't use the but definite objects use the
  1. Do you like coffee in the mornings?" (Generally);
  2. Did you like the coffee, that I just gave you?" (Specifically);
  3. At the meal table if there is only one bottle of milk ; We can say : "Please pass the milk." , but generally we speak about milk and not the milk.
    ' We don't use The if the object is already definite without "THE" ' but we do use the to say which thing we are talking about
    1. Platform 4 (Not 'The platform 4')
    2. Turn to page 26 (Not The page 26)
    3. The United Kingdom (Not just any united Kingdom, but The United Kingdom
    4. The Tower of London (Not any tower but The Tower of London)
  4. I go to the post office'
  5. I go to church'
  6. The post office is a specific post office in my town that I go to. Church is any church'

Articles: the before general concepts

We use the before nouns which describe a general type of thing rather than a specific example or thing:
These are problems for students living away from the family. We don't know the effects of such chemicals on the body. The role of the student at university level varies greatly from country to country.
Most of our business is carried out over the telephone.

The Something of something

The is used in the form; THE Something OF Something
  1. There is a problem with the availability of clean water in some villages.
  2. Generally, the standard of living is better in urban areas.
  3. Many residents complained about the frequency of bus services.
  4. This advance was brought about by the development of antibiotics.
  5. He made a number of recommendations for the improvement of staff training.

Names with and without The

We use the when we are thinking of one particular definite thing but that thing hasn't a special name.

Superlatives such as The best. Refer to one definite thing and so they use 'the'.
Most countries have special definite names already and so generally we don't use the.
  • I'm going to England (Not: I'm going to The England)

Some countries have The as part of their name

because part of their name is not definite

  1. The United States of America (With of the noun is only United states. We need the because there are many United states in the world.)
  2. The United Kingdom (There are many kingdoms that are united but The United Kingdom is the name of only one country.)
  3. The United Arab Emirates
  4. The Ukraine (I'm going to The Ukraine. Not: I'm going to Ukraine.)
  5. The Netherlands
  6. The Republic of ________ (We use the + noun + of)

Some uses of the definite article

  1. A few 'institutional' nouns take no definite article when a certain role is implied: for example, at sea (as a sailor), in prison (as a convict), and at/in college (for students). Among this group, BrE has in hospital (as a patient) and at university (as a student), where AmE requires in the hospital and at the university (though AmE does allow at college and in school). When the implied roles of patient or student do not apply, the definite article is used in both dialects.
  2. Likewise, BrE distinguishes in future ("from now on") from in the future ("at some future time"); AmE uses in the future for both senses.
  3. AmE omits, and BrE requires, the definite article in a few standard expressions[clarification needed] such as tell (the) time.
  4. In BrE, numbered highways usually take the definite article (for example "the M25", "the A14") while in America they usually do not ("I-495", "Route 66"). Upstate New York, Southern California and Arizona are exceptions, where "the 33", "the 5" or "the 10" are the standard. A similar pattern is followed for named roads (for example, Strand in London is almost always referred to as the Strand), but in America, there are local variations and older American highways tend to follow the British pattern ("the Boston Post Road").
  5. AmE distinguishes in back of [behind] from in the back of; the former is unknown in the UK and liable to misinterpretation as the latter. Both, however, distinguish in front of from in the front of.
  6. Dates usually include a definite article in UK spoken English, such as "the eleventh of July", or "July the eleventh", while American speakers most commonly say "July eleventh" or "July eleven".

The Indefinite Article

The indefinite article is often used with a single countable noun. Sometimes this single countable noun may be a group. Eg: Words such as "extra" and "further" are grouping words. So in "An extra ten", the word extra 'bundles' the ten into ONE. Hence "AN { extra ten } "

Correct or incorrect?

  1. I'm not only one who says that.
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