Articles (a, an, or the)

English Articles ( Determiners )

A , An Or The

 Articles     The and a/an are called "articles".

The articles in English include the definite article the and the indefinite articles a and an.

 Definite Article  

"Definite" means sure, certain in here . "Definite" is particular.

 "The" is a definite article, it is used with singular and plural, and countable and uncountable nouns when both the speaker and listener would know the thing or idea already. 


"Please pass me the pen" ( the one that we can both see.)

"The children I know grow up quickly" ( not all children, just the ones I know.)

"The poetry of Hopkins is beautiful" ( I'm only talking about the poetry Hopkins wrote.)

More usages of "the" in English 

1. Riversmountain rangesseasoceans and geographic areas all use 'the'.

 Example     "The Thames", "The Alps", "The Atlantic Ocean", "The Middle East"

2. Unique things have 'the'.

 Example    "the Sun", "the Moon" ,"the Mars",

3. Some institutional buildings don't have an article if you visit them for the reason these buildings exist. But if you go to the building for another reason, you must use 'the'.


"My son is in school." (He's a student.)
"I'm going to the school to see the head master."

"She's in hospital at the moment." (She's ill.)
"Her husband goes to the hospital to see her every afternoon."

4. Musical instruments use 'the'.

 Example    "She plays the piano."

5. Countries

We don't use 'a' if the country is singular. "He lives in England." But if the country's name has a "plural" meaning, we use 'the'. "The People's Republic of China", "The Netherlands", "The United States of America".

Note: Continents, towns and streets don't have an article.
 Example    "Africa", "New York", "Church Street"

6. Theatrescinemas and hotels have 'the'.

 Example    "The Odeon", "The Almeira", "The Hilton"

7. Abbreviations use 'the'. 

 Example    "the UN", "the USA", "the IMF".

8. We use 'the' before classes of people.

 Example    "the rich", "the poor", "the British".

Note: No THE before abstract nouns used in general use.


I love nature.

Life is short.


 According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, "the" is pronounced with a schwa(as in "uh") before words beginning with consonants (Example: bcdf), and usually with a different vowel sound /i/ (as "y" in "easy") before words beginning with vowels and in cases of proper nouns or emphasis. 

 Indefinite Articles 

"indefinite" means not sure, not certain in here. "Indefinite" is general.

A and an are the indefinite articles. They refer to something not specifically known to the person you are communicating with.

A and an are used before nouns that introduce something or someone you have not mentioned before.


"I saw an elephant this morning."

"I ate a banana for lunch."

"An" is used is it comes after a word that starts with a vowel.


a dog, a cat, an apple, an orange, but a university (because the word university does not start with a phonetic vowel.)

 "A" and "an" are used the same way grammatically. They are used before a singular noun, or before the adjective the represents the noun. 

They can't be used with plural nouns or uncountable nouns. 

A and an are also used when talking about your profession


"I am an English teacher."

"I am a builder."


If the next word begins with a consonant sound when we say it, for example, "university" then we use a. If the next word begins with a vowel sound when we say it, for example "hour" then we use an.

We say "university" with a "y" sound at the beginning as though it were spelt "youniversity".

So, "a university" IS correct.

We say "hour" with a silent h as though it were spelt "our".

So, "an hour" IS correct.

(Lots of people get this wrong - including native speakers.)

More usages of "the" in English 

Illnesses don't have an article.
"He's got appendicitis."
But we say "a cold" and "a headache".

Jobs use 'a'.
"I'm a teacher."

Sports don't have an article.
"He plays football."