There are lots of rules about the use of articles. Here we’ll concentrate on 3 golden rules. Most mistakes with articles are made through breaking one of these rules.

1. When we say what people’s jobs are, we use a/an

  • She’s an architect.
  • He’s a doctor.
  • My grandfather was a teacher.

2. Singular, countable nouns always have an article – a/an or the – or another determiner (my, your, this, that etc.)

Remember that we use the indefinite article - a/an - when we talk about something that is not definite.

  • I saw a good film yesterday. The listener doesn’t know which film.
  • There’s a man at the door. We don’t know who the man is.
  • Do you want a drink? It’s not a particular drink.

… and we use the definite article - the – when we talk about something more certain.

  • I’m going to take the dog for a walk. The dog is a pet – it’s not just any dog.
  • Have you seen the car key? Speaker and listener know which car. It’s not just any car.
  • They live in the house opposite ours. There’s only one house opposite. It’s not any house.

3.  When we talk about things in general we usually use a plural noun or an uncountable noun with no article.

  • Birds eat worms. NOT The birds eat the worms.
  • Water flows downhill.
  • Kangaroos live in Australia.

BUT We went to the zoo and saw the kangaroos. These are particular kangaroos – not kangaroos in general.

There are many other rules about articles but remembering these 3 golden rules will reduce the number of mistakes you make.

 Exercise

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