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 (140 votes)

Hello again Vivek,

Articles are contextual, but your sentences are decontextualised so we can only guess about what knowledge is shared. In general, a person says 'the bank' most of the time because they mean 'the bank where I have my account'. That's probably the case here, but without knowing the wider context in which the sentences are used we are only speculating.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivek on Mon, 25/10/2021 - 15:03


Sir, in this sentence
1)The debtor has to compensate the primary loss in the suit(law suit)
2)Then, the debtors has to pay for the additional cost in such suit.
I got this sentence from a book.
And I want to ask you that which in second sentence such is used instead of( the).
Is (the suit) correct here.

Hi Vivek,

Yes, you can say 'the suit' instead of 'such suit' in sentence 2! Both phrases refer to the suit mentioned before. 'Such' is more formal in style.

You can read more about this meaning of 'such' on this Cambridge Dictionary page. See the "Such meaning ‘of this or that kind’" section.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivek on Thu, 21/10/2021 - 20:53


Thank you for your previous explanation.
Sir, suppose I am inside a train and there I want to ask a person that where the train is going so what should I use,
1) where the train is going
2)where this train is going
Thanks In advance

Hello Vivek,

I would recommend the form with 'this', though please note the correct word order is 'Where is this train going?'

The reason 'this' is better than 'the' here is that you haven't yet spoken about the train with this person. If you say 'the', a person might not know for sure which train you're talking about. Perhaps it seems obvious, but in English it sounds strange.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivek on Thu, 21/10/2021 - 06:30


Sarvya siksha abhiyan is an Indian program. The program was launched in 2001.This program aims at providing elementary education for all childrens.
Sir, why in this sentence the program and this program both are used. Is this a correct paragraph. What is the logic behind it as use of ARTICLES

Hello Vivek,

'The' and 'this' are both reference devices which we use to refer to previously mentioned or known items. Your sentence is grammatical and you could use either 'the' or 'this' in each case. However, I would use 'the' in both places as we generally use 'this' when we want to identify something not merely as known but as contrasted with another item in the sense of 'this one not that one': 'this program works very well, but that program has never been successful'.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivek on Tue, 19/10/2021 - 17:34


Sir, as you said we generally use article the with common noun.
So here in this sentence.
1) yesterday I was at balham station. The station was fully crowded when I reached there.
Why here ( the station) sounds good. but in this example,,
2) Oxford street is very poor. We need to reconstruct the street.
Why here the sounds bad

Hello Vivek,

We use 'the' when we are talking about something which both the speaker and the listener can identify as a specific item. In the first example, we use 'the' because we know which station we are talking about - it was identified in the previous sentence (Balham Station).

The second example is not incorrect as the street has been identified (Oxford Street), just as the station was in the first example. However, the style is not great. We would generally avoid repeating 'street' here and instead use a pronoun: '...we need to reconstruct it'.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivek on Tue, 19/10/2021 - 15:58


Thank you sir for your previous explanation.
I have one doubt.
As we use the when the things which we talk is know to the listener so here,
1)the coffee plant begins to produce fruit after 4 years from being planted. The fruit is hand gathered when it is fully ripe
2) Agriculture incomes are not included in tax assessment. These income are excluded while calculating tax.

Why in first sentence (the fruit) is used and in second one (these incomes)
As in second sentence I have already mention (agriculture income)
Thanks in advance.