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 shahidanshaari on Thu, 10/12/2020 - 16:45

I would like to invite you to be a speaker for the program. Note: only one speaker in that program. Should i use a speaker or the speaker. Some told me “a” coz a job and it’s the first time being mentioned. Some told me “the” coz only one person in the program invited to be the speaker.

Hello shahidanshaari,

The most accurate thing to say here would be 'the', which clearly indicates that there is only one speaker. People might sometimes say 'a', but this could be cause confusion if there's only one speaker.

We use 'a' before professions especially after the verb 'be' (e.g. 'I am a teacher', 'She's an engineer'), but this rule doesn't apply in all circumstances.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by javibuendi on Thu, 26/11/2020 - 10:29

Dear LearnEnglish Team. Why do you write "a university" instead of "an university", if "university" begins with a vowel? Do you know more examples where you write "a + word that begins with a vowel"? Thank you!

Hi javibuendi,

Good question! It's because choosing a or an actually depends on the first sound of the word, not the first letter. In the word university, the first letter is 'u' but the first sound is a consonant: a 'y' sound (or /j/, in the phonetic alphabet). That's why a is used instead of an.

Yes, there are more words like this. Here are some examples: a universe, a union, a uniform, a ukelele, a unique (person), a useful (book).

For the same reason, some words begin with an 'h' but it is silent, so the first sound is a vowel sound. They need an. Here are some examples: an hour, an honour, an honest person.

Does that make sense?


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much for the explanation, Jonathan. Now I see it clearer.

Submitted by mhdkadas on Sat, 21/11/2020 - 16:28

Please Correct answer in the begin of question number 3 ,When I put "the" I got false but in the answers it was written "the" ? thanks

Hi mhdkadas,

Thanks for letting us know about the problem. I've just tested it, and it is working OK for me and it marks the as correct for test 2 question 3. So, it might have been a temporary error.

Is it working for you now? If not, also check that the answer is exactly the (without capital letters).

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ZIZO on Thu, 12/11/2020 - 13:32

Hi, "Harry Potter was born in Surrey, England, United Kingdom." I am a bit confused. Is it "United Kingdom" OR " "the United Kingdom"? Thanks in advance, Zizo
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Thu, 12/11/2020 - 16:49

In reply to by ZIZO


Hello Zizo,

In general, it is 'the United Kingdom', but there can be some exceptions to this. I'm not sure what the complete context is for the sentence you've found, but in general when we write an address on a letter, we don't put 'the United Kingdom', we just put 'United Kingdom' (or even just 'UK').

Since the sentence you found is kind of like an address, I expect that is why 'the' was left out.

Does that make sense?

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team