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 (174 votes)

Hi Vivek,

It's because we don't normally use the article with proper nouns (names of people, places and things that begin with a capital letter, e.g. Oxford Street, London, Kate Smith, Romeo and Juliet).

The rule you mentioned is for common nouns. We could use 'the' if we change 'Oxford Street' to a common noun, e.g. 'The street where I live is very poor.'

Does that make sense?

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LitteBlueGreat on Thu, 14/10/2021 - 14:33


Hi... sir

Can I use singular nouns without article "A/An" in the senses of imaginable things? As far I have known indefinite article always implies a quantity such as

An apple/orange = 1 Apple / Orange and so on

But I have a case, please imagine there are 2 people lost in middle of Sahara desert, There is no food, water just endless sand around them. Then the one asks the other
"Hey bro what fruit you would eat if we could find any kind of it?".

"me?, Orange".

Here comes my problem, the orange above is, what I will interprete, much of Dictionary definition.

I mean it is like what is orange?, what is apple? or what is cat? There is no discussing about a number of apple itself..

that's why it sounds like Imaginable thing

If it is added An "A/an article" then, if I were the asker, it would make my eyebrows rise up.

How can the responder get by with one apple?

How do you think of that sir?

Hello LittleBlueGreat,

Thanks for providing a very clear example -- it really helps me understand your question. Here I think any native speaker would say 'an orange' (or 'an apple' or 'some grapes', etc.). Although the fruit they're talking about is imaginary, in their imagination, it's a very real piece of fruit that they are eating and so a determiner or quantifier of some sort is needed.

It is possible to speak of 'apple' as an abstraction, but this is quite unusual in most people's speaking or writing. Although I believe philosophers would speak more of 'appleness' rather than 'apple', 'apple' sounds to me like something out of Plato's theory of forms ( I don't know enough about this topic to say if it's really appropriate there, but it at least made me think of it!

Hope this helps.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by risen47 on Sat, 07/08/2021 - 07:43

That was hard lesson for me.

Submitted by Fiona on Wed, 28/04/2021 - 13:37

I’ve read this: apple starts with A banana starts with B chiken starts with C I thought happiness started with a H but why does mine starts with U Why do you need an article for the fourth line only? Or it’s just simply wrong?

Hi Fiona,

Actually, it's correct with or without an article, so both of these are correct:

  • Apple starts with A.
  • Apple starts with an A.


But there are a couple of other things to correct. It should be 'an H' (because the sound is 'aitch', which starts with a vowel sound), and 'why does mine start with U' (in the infinitive form, because it follows 'does'). Also, check the spelling of 'chicken'.

I hope that helps :)


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by emidepegaso on Mon, 12/04/2021 - 23:37


Submitted by Larissari09 on Mon, 05/04/2021 - 16:07

In the example about 'a' and 'an', that is right? "She has a university degree." "It took me an hour to get home." Correctly is no " She has an university degree." and "It took me a hour to get home."? Is not about the letter that starts the word?

Hello Larissari09,

As is explained above, it's the sound that starts the word that matters, not the letter:

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.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team