GrammarBank Exercises eBook: $7.99 - Children's English eBooks $6.49 - Download and Print InstantlyClick Here

English 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. See 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.)

Rules of Articles

Articles Rule 1: With singular count nouns, use 'a' if indefinite or "the" if definite.

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


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

Articles Rule 2: With plural count nouns use either "the" or nothing, never 'a'.

1.Come and look at the children. (definite)
2.Children are always curious. (indefinite)
3.She loves flowers. (indefinite)
4.The flowers in her garden are beautiful. (definite)
5.Do you like reading grammar rules?
6.Do you like reading the grammar rules on this page?

Articles Rule 3: With non-count nouns, use either "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)

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

Articles Rule 4: If a plural or non-count noun is followed by [of + noun], "the" is preferred.

1.The languages of Asia are unrelated to English.
2.The wines of France are famous.
3.The birds of North America are beautiful.
4.X Museum of Art is having X exhibit of the paintings of Picasso.

Special Rules for Articles

1. 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

2. 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

3. Cities and Streets use nothing

Chicago Fifth Avenue San Francisco
Highway 5LondonKennedy blvd.

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

the Amazonthe Atlantic the Mediterranean
the Cascadesthe Hawaiian Islandsthe Bahamas

5. Numbers

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

6. 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

8. 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)

9. When the object is the only one that exists, use "the"

the earththe human racethe world
the moon the sun the universe

10. When you use expressions that identify part of a larger group, use "the"

-One of the students
-None of the students
-Both of the students
-All of the students
You are here: >> Home >> English Grammar Lessons >> Articles