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 Veruha on Sat, 09/01/2021 - 12:02

Please help me((((( Six billion people live in the world today, but two hundred years from now, that number 1_______________ (grow) to twenty or thirty billion! So where will we all live? Many people 2_______________ (live) in huge cities with populations of thirty or fifty million people. By then, some people 3_______________ (build) houses on – or under – the water too. By the year 2200, we 4_______________ (not eat) the same foods as we eat today, and we 5_______________ (probably / speak) different languages too. Two hundred years from now, the world will be a very different place! Future past or future continious

Hello Veruha,

I'd suggest you have a look at our Future continuous and future perfect page, where the grammar you need to know to complete this exercise is explained. Could you also please copy your question into a comment there so that it's on a relevant page? Please also tell us what you think the answers are -- we'll be happy to help you understand any that you complete incorrectly.

Thanks in advance,


The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Weirdblast

Submitted by Weirdblast on Fri, 08/01/2021 - 18:07

Hi, I have a doubt. Yesterday, I was using Learn English Grammar app and I did the lesson of ''a, an or the''. One of the exercise was ''I can play ___ piano'' and the correct answer was ''the''. I don't understand why is that because I didn't know which violin we are talking about neither is particular group of violins. I thought the correct answer was (nothing). Can u explain me? Thank you!

Hi Weirdblast,

When we talk about musical instruments we always use 'the' in this context:

I can play the piano.

Can you play the guitar?

She's learning to play the drums.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by nanda_zhr on Fri, 25/12/2020 - 12:32

hello!im beginner from indonesian hope u can help me to learn english very well thankyou....and sorry if my english skill still bad..:(((

Submitted by Maria19 on Mon, 21/12/2020 - 09:39

Hey, I get confused a little. I would happy for explanation. You write - "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." But the example that you give: "She has a university degree." I don't understand why it is 'a' and don't 'an'. -university start with u and this is a vowel sound, so why a? Thank you

Hello Maria19,

The key is the word 'sound'. A vowel in English is one of five letters: a, e, i, o, u. However, a word can begin with a vowel (letter) but not with a vowel sound (pronunciation).

University is an example of this. The first sound is not /u:/ but /j/, the same sound we have in yellow and yes.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Loc Duc on Thu, 17/12/2020 - 13:29

Hi, can you explain more about '' something that is part of a group or type'' and ''Do you want sandwich? I've got cheese and bread in the shopping bag.'' why the answer to this question is a. thank you.

Hi Loc Duc,

'Something that is part of a group of type' refers to words like teacher in this sentence: She's a teacher. It means she is a member of a group (a group of people who have the same job - they are all teachers). 

About Do you want ___ sandwich?, this needs 'a' because sandwich is a singular countable noun, and it seems like this is the first mention of the sandwich in the conversation.

Does that make sense?


The LearnEnglish Team