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 (82 votes)

Hi amit_ck,

The noun is not just "paper and cardboard" but the whole phrase "the proportion of paper and cardboard". The main word is "proportion" in the singular, so the verb needs to match it.

If the sentence said "the proportions of paper and cardboard" (proportions = plural), then the correct verb would be "were".

I hope that helps :)

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivek on Sat, 20/11/2021 - 05:22


Suppose there was a football match,and I asked my friend that "did you watched the match".
And suppose my friend is eating an apple.And I asked him did you ate the apple.
Sir, why in first sentence "the match" means common noun is used and in second sentence "the apple"not "the fruit is used.

Hello Vivek,

Generally, we use the word which best describes (makes clear) what we are talking about. You would say 'apple' here because that is what your friend is eating and there is no reason to use a more general word. Similarly, in the first sentence you say 'match' rather than 'sporting event'.

There is no rule which says you cannot use more general words. However, it would be strange to use more general words when there is a perfectly clear and common word available.

By the way, the question here would be 'Did you watch...?' not *'Did you watched...?'*

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivek on Wed, 17/11/2021 - 11:11


Suppose I am in a room there I said to a person to "please close the door"
And, suppose I am in a train and there I asked a person " where this train is going. "
Why in second example" the train" is not suitable .

Hello Vivek,

That's a good question and one that is difficult to answer. We often use 'this' to refer to a situation or event that is happening or about to start. In the example on a train, you're asking about the train, but since the train is kind of like a situation -- the situation shared by all the people on the train, as they are all in it together -- then perhaps this is why 'this' is better than 'the'.

In the case of the door, it's not really a situation.

I'm sorry if that's not a completely coherent answer, but in the end this seems to be a matter of usage and so my explanation may not be entirely satisfactory.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivek on Sat, 13/11/2021 - 18:29


Sir, yesterday I read two sentence in which I have some confusion
1)Diwali is a festival of light. The festival is celebrated in the month of November in India.
"here the festival means diwali" but,
2) long term investments are are done for more than one year.the investments are for long term basis.
*Sir why here "the investment "sounds bad and is likely that it is representing all investments whether it is short term or long term.
*Comparing example 1 and 2.

Hello Vivek,

I'm sorry, I don't understand your question. Could you please explain it in more detail?

Our ability to explain what other people say is limited when we don't know their intentions or the situation they're speaking in, but we'll see if we can help.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivek on Mon, 01/11/2021 - 19:07


Yester I saw a sentence in a book it was written in it that:
When a person does any act on behalf of another person,he may ratify such act.
I have confusion that why there "such act " is written not "the act" as we know which act is being here taught about.
I have very much confusion in articles and demonstrative determiners please clarify it.

Hi Vivek,

'Such' is used to refer to something that was mentioned before, so 'such act' means 'the act which was mentioned before'.

'The act' is also fine here, instead of 'such act'. But 'such' is typically used in formal or official styles of writing. This sentence sounds like it comes from formal writing.

I hope that helps :)

The LearnEnglish Team