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 (172 votes)

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.

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