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: 4.2 (34 votes)
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Submitted by Vivek on Sat, 13/11/2021 - 18:29

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivek on Mon, 01/11/2021 - 19:07

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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 :)

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir see ,again you used" this sentence sounds like... " in your answer. I want to ask you why you use this sentence as I already know which sentence is being taught about

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'.

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivek on Sat, 30/10/2021 - 21:19

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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.

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivek on Fri, 29/10/2021 - 07:49

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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 .

Hello Vivek,

Is that really what it says? I think Google usually gives results, even if they are not what you're looking for.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team