There are lots of rules about the use of articles. Here we’ll concentrate on 3 golden rules. Most mistakes with articles are made through breaking one of these rules.
1. When we say what people’s jobs are, we use a/an
- She’s an architect.
- He’s a doctor.
- My grandfather was a teacher.
2. Singular, countable nouns always have an article – a/an or the – or another determiner (my, your, this, that etc.)
Remember that we use the indefinite article - a/an - when we talk about something that is not definite.
- I saw a good film yesterday. The listener doesn’t know which film.
- There’s a man at the door. We don’t know who the man is.
- Do you want a drink? It’s not a particular drink.
… and we use the definite article - the – when we talk about something more certain.
- I’m going to take the dog for a walk. The dog is a pet – it’s not just any dog.
- Have you seen the car key? Speaker and listener know which car. It’s not just any car.
- They live in the house opposite ours. There’s only one house opposite. It’s not any house.
3. When we talk about things in general we usually use a plural noun or an uncountable noun with no article.
- Birds eat worms. NOT
The birds eat the worms.
- Water flows downhill.
- Kangaroos live in Australia.
BUT We went to the zoo and saw the kangaroos. These are particular kangaroos – not kangaroos in general.
There are many other rules about articles but remembering these 3 golden rules will reduce the number of mistakes you make.