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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

Yes, I finally understood this topic) Thanks

Hi Sir!

Swelling is a place on your body that has become larger or rounder than normal as the result of an illness or injury

Could I say 'as a result of' instead of 'as the result'?

I see my role as being a catalyst for change. - The riots were later seen as the catalyst for the new political developments.

What is the difference between "a catalyst" and "the catalyst" here?

Thanks a lot for your help.

Hello Sunyoung1005,

'A' suggests that there are multiple items and you are describing one. 'The' suggests that there is only one item, or that other items can be ignored or disregarded.

In these examples both forms are possible.

If you say a catalyst then you are implying that there are multiple catalysts and you are describing one of them. If you say the catalyst then you are suggesting that there is only one catalyst.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher,

May I know the difference between "the right" and "a right"?

You have the right to consult a lawyer. vs Everyone has a right to a fair trial.

Hi cms10,

In this context you can use either 'a' or 'the' in each sentence. You can see it as one of many rights ('a right') or as a particular right which is specified in the sentence ('the right). It's really up to the speaker.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir,
Could you help me with this?

She is a woman that I admire.
She is the woman that I admire.

Which is the correct sentence? Or both the sentence above are fine?

The next question:
What is the difference between these following sentence
-She is the one who should be blamed.
- she is a person who should be blamed.

Thank you,sir

Hello Risa Warysha,

Both of the first two sentences are fine, though only one or the other would be appropriate in specific situations. In general, we use 'a' when are mentioning this woman for the first time and 'the' after that.

As for the other two sentences, the first one suggests that she is the only person, whereas the second one suggests there could be more than one person.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, I want to know please why we used the article ( a) a not (an) in the following question :
Is there a university where you live ?

You're absolutely right Jeje. U is a vowel, but the sound it makes is a consonant, so it is in fact like a word starting with a consonant and not a vowel.

You pronounce university: yuniversity with a y at the beginning. Try saying 'an university' and see for yourself how awkward it is!

Hello jeje

As the explanation says, we use 'a' when the word that follows it begins with a consonant sound. 'university' begins with the /j/ sound -- you can hear it on this dictionary page

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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