Articles - A An The

Articles in English are complicated, and there are many rules for their use. However, learning a few general rules about the use of the articles is helpful; the logic of these rules can be transferred to most uses of the article. In addition to learning the rules, you can gain a good working use of the articles through reading and listening. Remember that the article is not stressed, so don't listen for its full value! Also, ask native speakers to help you when you don't know whether or not to use the article.

Subject Exercises:
A / AN / THE Worksheets

Table of Articles

Singular a / anthe
Plural nothingthe

Quick Hints

  • a before consonants (a book)
    an before vowels (an exam)

  • Pronunciation is what matters.
    an hour ('h' is silent and it's pronounced: an our)

  • Temporary illnesses: (I have a headache, a cold, a fever, a backache)

  • "The" with superlative forms (He is the smartest kid I have seen.)

Some Rules using Articles

Singular count nouns:

  • indefinite: use 'a'
  • definite: use "the"

  • My daughter wants to buy a dog this weekend. (Indefinite-Could be any dog)
    The dog in the backyard is very cute.(Definite-The one in the backyard)

    He requested a puppy for his birthday.
    He wanted the puppy he played with at the pet shop.
    She ordered a hamburger without onions.
    Did you drink the coke I just ordered?

    Plural count nouns:

    Use "the" or Nothing, never 'a'.

    Come and look at the children. (definite)
    Children are always curious. (indefinite)
    She loves flowers. (indefinite)
    The flowers in her garden are beautiful. (definite)
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    Non-count nouns:

    Use "the" or nothing.

    He has experience. (if indefinite or mentioned for the first time)
    He has the experience necessary for the job. (if definite or mentioned before)

    The medicine the doctor prescribed had unpleasant side effects.
    Writing in a second language is especially challenging.
    Have you studied the history of South Africa?
    History reminds us that events repeat themselves.

    Definite Article THE Rules

    Adjectives as Nouns

    When referring to a group of people by use of an adjective rather than a noun, use "the".

    the elderlythe disabledthe unemployed
    the richthe sickthe needy
    the homelessthe young the restless

    Names of Countries

    Some countries are preceded by "the", usually if the name is plural, contains an adjective, or includes "of".

    The United StatesThe Soviet Union The Republic of Congo

    Cities and Streets use nothing

    Chicago Fifth Avenue San Francisco
    Highway 5LondonKennedy blvd.

    Rivers, Oceans, Seas, Groups of Mountains & Islands use "the"

    the Amazonthe Atlantic the Mediterranean
    the Cascadesthe Hawaiian Islandsthe Bahamas


    Cardinal numbers(1,2,3) use nothing
    World War 2 Page 7 Chapter 1
    Mission 1 Paragraph 5 Channel 6

    Ordinal numbers (1st,2nd,3rd) use "the"
    The Second World War the seventh pagethe first chapter
    the first mission the fifth paragraph the sixth channel

    Titles of People

    When a title is given with a name, use nothing
    President Mitchael Queen Mary Professor Scott

    When a title is used without a name, use "the"

    The president the queen the professor


    When a school has "of" in its title, use "the"
    The University of ArizonaThe University of LondonChapter 2

    When a school does not have "of" in its title, use nothing
    Lincoln High School Arizona State University Liverpool John Moores University

    Location versus Activity

    When referring to an activity, use nothing
    I am going to school now.(activity-study)
    He is always on time for class. (activity-learn)

    When referring to the location, use "the"

    The meeting is at the school. (location-campus)
    They are remodeling the movie theater. (location-building)
    The new student had trouble finding the class. (location-classroom)

    Unique Objects - Use THE

    the earththe human racethe world
    the moon the sun the universe

    Part of a larger group, Use THE

    -One of the students
    -None of the students
    -Both of the students
    -All of the students
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