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Articles 1

Do you know how to use a, an and the?

Look at these examples to see how articles are used.

She's a doctor.
I need an umbrella.
Have you heard the news?
I don't like spiders.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar test 1: Articles 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Here are some of the most important things to know about using articles.

Jobs

When we say what people's jobs are, we usually use a/an.

He's an architect.
She's a scientist.
My grandmother was a teacher.

Singular nouns

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

We use a/an – the indefinite article – when we talk about something for the first time, or something that is part of a group or type.

I saw a good film yesterday.
Do you want a drink?

We use a when the word that follows it begins with a consonant sound. We use an when it's followed by a vowel sound. This makes pronunciation easier.

She has a university degree.
It took me an hour to get home.

We use the – the definite article – when the listener already knows which thing we are talking about because it was mentioned before or because there's only one of them.

I'm going to take the dog for a walk.
Have you seen the car key?
They go to the school next to the bridge.

Things in general

When we talk about things in general, we normally use a plural or uncountable noun with no article.

Birds eat worms.
Water freezes at 0°C.
Children need a lot of sleep.

Particular groups of things

When we talk about a particular group of things, we use the.

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

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Grammar test 2: Articles 1

Language level

Beginner: A1
Pre-intermediate: A2

Comments

Could you please give me another example like :
"a university"

Hello nel,

Certainly. Here are some examples: a union, a united group, a unique painting, a universal truth.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

In the first exercise, I did many mistakes but when I read the rule I remember that I was learning already.
Conclusion I did completely the next tasks.

Hi, May i ask questions ?
who answer me? and how?

Hi Elhamshojaei,

Yes, you can ask questions. In fact, you just did!

We read all comments before they are published on the page. If you have a question then we'll try to answer. We don't provide answers to tasks from elsewhere - after all, we don't want to do people's homework for them - but we are happy to answer questions about the information on our pages or about English more generally if we can.

 

If you do ask a question, please remember that we are a small team here and it may take us a day or two to answer it. We ask users to keep questions short and relevant to the topic of the page. If a question is too long then we may not answer it, as we have to deal with a lot of questions every day.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, teacher!
I have one question. We usually put a / an when we mention something for the first time. But what if I mean a concrete item but l mention it for the first time? For example: He burned the house.
Yes, I mean a specific house, but this is the first time I mention it. Despite this, I use "the". Can you answer: Am I right and explain me why or why no?
Thanks in advance,
Sherol

Hello Sherol,

When we say that we use the indefinite article when we mention something for the first time it is really a helpful guide rather than a rule. The true rule is that we use the indefinite article when we are speaking about a non-specific example. In other words, if the listener does not know which particular thing is being referred to, or if it does not matter which one, then we use the indefinite article. On the other hand, if both the listener and speaker know which particular thing is being referred to (it is familiar to both) then we use the definite article.

 

What this means is if I use 'the' then I assume that you know which thing I am referring to. This could be because it has already been mentioned, but it could also be because there is only one (the Moon, the United Nations) or because it is obvious from the context.

Thus, in your example you could use 'the' if both the speaker and the listener know which house you are talking about. Perhaps you are standing in front of it, making it obvious from the context, for example.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, sir.
The definite article "the" is often put when we talk about location of something. But sometimes it doesn't work. For example:
Let me hang your coat on A hook?
Or
We hung our jackets on hangers.
Are there any regularities in the exceptions?

Thanks,
Sherol

Hello Sherol,

Although there are certainly many exceptions in how articles are used, I wouldn't recommend you try to come up with rules about articles based on ideas such as location. As the explanation above suggests, in most cases, it has to do with whether the noun they are used with has been mentioned yet in the conversation. Whether a noun is singular or plural is also important.

In this case, 'the hook' is also a possible form, but by saying 'a hook', the speaker is probably showing that no one has mentioned hanging the jackets on a hook yet. In the case of 'on hangers', 'on the hangers' is also possible (but not 'on a hangers' since 'hangers is plural').

I'd suggest you have a look at the more detailed explanation in our English Grammar reference, which I think will help you make sense of this.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teacher.
I made one sentence:
When you write down THE meaning of word you should write like this;
............................................................
Why do I have to use The here?

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