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.

Jobs

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 (171 votes)
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Profile picture for user dipakrgandhi

Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Mon, 04/09/2023 - 14:27

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Sir,
My apologies if I am posting my question in a wrong section!

This is what I saw written on a compound wall of a school:

'We don't make future for you but, make you for future.'

Are they write in putting comma after 'but'?

Normally it is comma before the conjunction of a dependent clause - which happens to be 'but' in this case.

Will you please clarify it for me?

Regards

Dipak R Gandhi

Hi Dipak,

Right, the comma should not be after "but". You can put the comma before "but". However, "make you for (the) future" is not a complete clause and the comma can also be left out. It's often left out when "but" joins two phrases.

One more thing, it should be "the future".

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Statick on Wed, 12/07/2023 - 22:21

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I have a question
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.

Hello Statick,

I guess your question is why these examples do not follow the rule, but the fact is they do follow the rule! The key word in 'sound' as in 'vowel sound'.

The word university begins with a consonant sound: it is not /u:n.../ but /ju:n.../. In other words, the first sound is the same as the first sound in 'yellow' or 'yes'. That is why we use 'a' and not 'an'.

The word hour begins with a vowel sound. The pronunciation is the same as 'our'; the 'h' is silent.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hello_I_am_Cri… on Sat, 24/06/2023 - 18:43

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Hello
Is this subject have a video explanation?
Thank

Submitted by Hrihorii94 on Sun, 11/06/2023 - 10:01

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Hi.
Can someone here explain why "I can take children to school today" is incorrect". Children is a plural. So we shouldn't use 'a' with that, probably.

Hello Hrihorii94,

You are right in thinking that 'a children' is not correct. The correct answer here is 'the children' because this sentence is not about children in general. Instead, it is about a specific group of children, and so we use 'the' before it.

I suppose that in a very specific situation, 'I can take children to school today' is possible, but in the vast majority of situations, 'the children' is best.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team