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

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Submitted by francoandrian on Wed, 01/03/2023 - 14:53


The explanation is really clear but I think that you need to explain what is the reason for the different treatment of the 'u' word when it appears first in a word. Maybe I don't understand how I have to use it.


Hi francoandrian,

It depends on what the sound of the 'u' is. It can have two different sounds.

  • a pure vowel sound, e.g. uncle, umbrella, unhappy, unfortunate
  • a sound like the word 'you' - e.g. universe, university, useful, union

Use 'an' with the first group (e.g. an umbrella; an unfortunate event). Use 'a' with the second group (e.g. a university; a useful object). 

I hope that helps to understand it.


LearnEnglish team

Hi Francoandrian.
as I know "university" has the first spelling is "j", not "u". so that is why it follows "a"

Submitted by uttambro on Mon, 13/02/2023 - 18:00


"The" explanation helped me a lot.
Is it right?
BTW, it was really helpful.I got to learn enough from it.
Signing off:)

BTW which stands for “By The Way is used in everyday life.
- I think we've discussed everything we need to - by the way, what time is it?
- I hope you enjoyed your holiday in Florida - btw, can you recommend a good hotel?

Submitted by Nivonshi on Fri, 09/12/2022 - 04:20


I have a question why we doesn't use the before countries?

Hello Nivonshi,

We do use articles before some countries:

  • Countries with plural names take 'the': the Netherlands, the Philippines and the Seychelles, for example.
  • Countries whose names are political descriptions: the United States, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, the People's Republic of China, for example.

Other countries are treated as proper names and so have no article.



The LearnEnglish Team