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 (120 votes)

Hello Vivek,

The first sentence features an extremely use of the word 'the'. As for the second, perhaps the writer wants it to be absolutely clear what is excluded and is afraid that ideas from a previous sentence could cause confusion on the part of the reader. I'm afraid we can't know exactly why writers choose the words that they do, especially without knowing the sentences that come before and after and without knowing the writer's intentions or intended readers.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivek on Mon, 18/10/2021 - 10:46


Yesterday I was In a school. The teachers in that school was very nice. Or,
Yesterday I was in a school. The teachers in the school was very nice
Which one is correct sir. Plz explain

These sentences are incorrect as the word 'school' is repeated twice. You could instead use the word 'there'. For example, 'Yesterday I was in a school. The teachers there were very nice.'

Submitted by Vivek on Mon, 18/10/2021 - 07:29


Good afternoon sir,
As we know that the is used with singular countable nouns.
So which of these sentences are correct
1)yesterday I was in a bank. The staffs of that bank were very nice or,
Yester I was in a bank.the staffs of the bank were very nice.
Is the sentence with (that bank) right

Hello Vivek,

You could say 'the bank' or 'that bank' here. Most of the time, people would say 'the' and it would clearly refer to the same bank mentioned in the first sentence.

If you wanted to add some emphasis -- that is, to insist that it was the same bank -- then you could say 'that'.

By the way, 'staff' is only used in the singular in standard British English.

Please note that it can take us some time to respond to comments. Posting more than one comment about the same topic won't make things any faster. Thanks in advance for your understanding!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivek on Sun, 17/10/2021 - 19:37


Sir we know that article the is used when listener and speaker both know which things is talking about .so in this example
1) Oxford street is very poor .
We need to reconstruct the street.
Why here the sounds bad.
I have mentioned about the street in first sentence

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.