Do you know how to use a, an and the?

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

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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

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

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

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

Hi Vivek,

We can use both 'the' and 'this' (and also, in a formal style, 'such') if we already know which thing is being talked about. It's important to understand that both words have this meaning (not only 'the').

I could also have used 'the sentence' instead of 'this sentence'. The meaning is the same. Comparatively, 'this' refers to the sentence with a little more emphasis than 'the'.

The LearnEnglish Team

As we know that article the is used when we know that which thing is taught about or when the thing is already mention before so in this example
1)i am a resident of hollingdon city. The roads in this city are very poor.
Sir, why here( this city) is used why not the city as we have already mentioned which city earlier

Hi Vivek,

We can use both words (the / this) for this purpose (i.e., to refer to something already mentioned before). It would be fine to say 'The roads in the city ...' as well. :)

Somebody might also say 'this city' if they are in the city when they say this sentence. 'This' helps to emphasise the fact that they are talking about the place where they are.

The LearnEnglish Team

I have a confusing doubt that is
Example : suppose I am searching for a page in google.
So, why it gives a message like "you can't access this page"
Why not it shows "you can't access the page"
As I already know which page is taught about .

Sir, as you said we use article the when listener and speaker both know which things is being taught about so according to this rule.
1)yesterday I was in Rajdhani express(indian train). The train was running late by 2 hrs.
Here, the train is correct and also sounds good.
2) I am a resident of bond street. The cleanliness of this street is not up to the satisfaction.
Here, in 2nd sentence why (this street) is written why not the street bcz I have already mentioned about the street in first line.

1) question number 1 is wrong please correct the question
2)question number 1 is wrong please correct that question
Which is correct and why

Hello Vivek,

As we've said before, we generally use 'this' and 'that' when we need to clearly differentiate between different items - this one and not that one, for example. I think 'the' is the most likely option here, but it would depend on the speaker's intention and the broader context in which the sentences occur.

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,suppose both me and the listener knows which bank I am taking about.
Take an example
1) I am going to the bank. Here this sentence is true with (the). but,
2) I will never go the bank.
Suppose I want to talk about the same bank in second sentence why there( the bank)
Sounds bad.
Thank you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve read this: apple starts with A banana starts with B chiken starts with C I thought happiness started with a H but why does mine starts with U Why do you need an article for the fourth line only? Or it’s just simply wrong?

Hi Fiona,

Actually, it's correct with or without an article, so both of these are correct:

  • Apple starts with A.
  • Apple starts with an A.


But there are a couple of other things to correct. It should be 'an H' (because the sound is 'aitch', which starts with a vowel sound), and 'why does mine start with U' (in the infinitive form, because it follows 'does'). Also, check the spelling of 'chicken'.

I hope that helps :)


The LearnEnglish Team

In the example about 'a' and 'an', that is right? "She has a university degree." "It took me an hour to get home." Correctly is no " She has an university degree." and "It took me a hour to get home."? Is not about the letter that starts the word?

Hello Larissari09,

As is explained above, it's the sound that starts the word that matters, not the letter:

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.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Let me change the clothes. Let me Watch the television. Let me take the medicine. Let me help the poor. Let me tie a turban. Can you tell these examples are correct? If I'm wrong tell me Why?

Hello Sameer Mankoo,

Those are all grammatically correct, but remember that the use of articles, especially the definite article, is highly dependent on context. The definite article expresses shared knowledge between the speaker and the listener, so their relationship to each other, to the world in general and to the specific context in which they are speaking are all important.



The LearnEnglish Team

4. Could you please pass me salt? Why ' the ' is used here. Can anyone tell me the reason?

Hello Sameer Mankoo,

The idea is that when we say this, we are sitting at the table with other people and the salt is on the table. It's something we can all see and I can assume that the person I say this to knows what I am referring to.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

"The project has helped to decrease the rate of early marriage of (the) girl students in India." Is it a correct sentence?
Hi! Can you explain to me why question 8 in the grammar test 2 use the article when the noun is plural?