Articles: 'a', 'an', 'the'

Articles: 'a', 'an', 'the'

Do you know how to use a, an and the? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

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.


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

Average: 4 (141 votes)

Submitted by Avianna on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 13:17

Hello. We use article the with a group of islands but why do we say Bermuda without the, could you clarify, please?

Hello Avianna,

Bermuda is actually a shortened version of the full name, which is the Islands of Bermuda. When the full name is used we use 'the'; only the abbreviated form is without. I guess we treat Bermuda as a name in itself, just as we do with Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other Carribbean states.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MPhayTp on Wed, 14/10/2020 - 16:44

I'm gonna tell you about a trip. (the listener doesn't know about it) Is it possible to use "a" in this?

Hello DaniWeebKage,

Yes, that's fine. You would only use 'the' if the person you are talking to already knows which trip you are talking about.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by polina1526 on Mon, 12/10/2020 - 17:58

Even though articles are essential while speaking English, it is a topic that is commonly confused by language learners, especially ones whose first language does not have any articles at all. This website helps students to learn such a difficult topic. It has the rule with precise explanation and some incredibly useful examples. Not only one can easily understand in which case they should use 'a', 'an' or 'the' but also take a short test to sum up everything they have read.

Submitted by Babydoll on Mon, 05/10/2020 - 23:50

Hi there, Thank you for the great explanation for articles. I struggle to use right article after reading this topic I feel more confident and clear.☺️

Submitted by SHAILESH TIPNIS on Sat, 26/09/2020 - 19:55

Hello teacher, "Is there a university where you live?" In the above question, we use the article "a" before the word "university" in spite it starts from the vowel sound "u". So please explain what would be the correct "a" or "an" and why in the above example.


We use a before consonant sounds and an before vowel sounds. However, you need to remember that some words begin with a vowel (letter) but are pronounced with a consonant sound first. University is like this. The first sound is /j/, which is the same sound as at the beginning of words like you, year and yellow. That is why we say a university not an.



The LearnEnglish Team

hey Pedro, listen something is not allowing me to post comments. I am not sure what it is?? help me please. Thanks.