How to use articles a, an, the in English grammar

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How to use articles a, an, the in English grammar


Generally, most of us get confused while using articles. The correct use of articles will not be a difficult task if you follow this detailed guide on how to use articles a/an/the correctly.

The most common confusion is whether to use an article or not. Shall I use a/an or the. When should I use articles in English speaking and writing? What do articles do in sentences? Can I start a sentence with the article? How is the article used in a sentence and what is its function? When to use a/an/the? who will tell me the rules, and examples of using articles? Who will tell me the right answer?

I would like to assure you that you will get answers to all your questions about articles here with the easiest method with a lot of examples, detailed rules, and smart exercises.

What is an Article in English grammar?

First, let me tell you that articles are adjectives (The words which qualify or describe nouns or pronouns) and they tell something about a noun or pronoun, whether a noun is common or specific, singular or plural, definite or indefinite, repeated in the sentence or not. Now we will dive deep into the articles.

Basically, there are 3 articles a, an, the.

Types of articles

There are two types of articles–1) Definite article (The) 2) Indefinite article(A/An)

Now the question arises what are definite and indefinite articles?

The difference is very clear if we understand the meaning of definite which means clearly stated, certain, known to be true, real having exact physical limits.

1)Definite article- definition-if we are talking about some particular person or thing then it is definite and we can use a definite article THE before it.

Eg. 1)We talked with the farmer. Here the makes us mean not any common farmer but particular or specific.

2)Indefinite article-definition-If we are not clear about any person or thing, if it is not specific, then it is indefinite and article a/an is used with it if it is singular.

Eg. 1)We talked with a farmer. Here a makes us believe that the farmer with whom we talked is any common and not specific.

See more examples to clear doubts about identifying the definite and indefinite person or thing.

Eg. 1)a chair—any common chair-indefinite.

2)the executive chair—not common but specific chair-definite.

1)a book—any common book-indefinite

2)the book—specific book you want to mention-definite.

This makes it clear that any common thing is indefinite and any specific thing even it is not denoted by describing words but you personally consider it specific, then it is also definite.

How to use articles a, an in English grammar sentences

We have just learned that a, an are indefinite articles. Here are the correct rules to use them correctly.

1)As we have discussed above a/an is an indefinite article, we use it before a common noun that is not specific or particular. A/An is used before a singular common noun. It is never used before a plural common noun.

Eg. a boy, a girl, a man, a woman, a tree a dog, a cat,

an ant, an elephant, an egg, an eye, an airplane

2)The common noun which begins with a consonant takes article a and the common noun which begins with vowels a,e, i,o, and u takes an.

Eg. a book, an ear, a pen, an orange

3)If a common noun begins with a vowel but its pronunciation is like a consonant, then a is used.

Eg. a university, a union, a European, a unity

4)If a common noun begins with a consonant but its pronunciation is like a vowel, then an is used. Here consonant sound-letter is silent.

Eg. an hour, an honor, an honest, an M.A., an M.B.A., an M.Com., an heir.

5)When the adjective is used before a common noun, use a/an as per the adjective’s beginning sound(Vowel or consonant) for the common noun.

Eg. 1) an orange—a sweet orange—an old orange—a big orange.

2)a boy—an angry boy—a clever boy—an intelligent boy.

6)If the common noun used in the first sentence is repeated in the next one, use the in that next sentence for the repeated common noun.

Eg. 1)I found a book. The book was interesting.

2)We visited an old man. We talked nicely with the old man.

7)A/An means one. So we use it in place of one.

Eg. One book= a book.

8)Very rarely we use a/an to transform proper nouns to common nouns.

Eg. 1)A Pele showed how to play football to the world.

Here we have learned some important rules to use a/an.

Now we will study the use of the

How to use article the in English grammar

1)The is a definite article. So we use it before specific or particular singular or plural nouns.

Eg. 1)I saw a farmer.(singular common noun). I talked with the farmer.(Singular specific noun)

2)The things which are eternal and unique take the.

Eg. the sun, the moon, the earth, the mars

3)The is used before the names of rivers, seas, oceans, continents, deserts, mountains, canals, names of directions, etc.

Eg. the Nile river, the Thames, The Ganga, The Indus

The Arabian Sea, the dead sea, the Pacific Ocean, the Hindi ocean, and the Atlantic ocean.

The Sahara desert, the Kalahari, and the Gobi.

The Alps, the Himalayas, the Rocky.

The Suez- Canal, the north, the east.

4)The is especially used before epics mostly in religious books.

The Bible, The Gita, and The Guru Granth Sahib.

5)If the is used with an adjective and there is no noun after that adjective, it indicates the group of people which adjective indicates.

Eg. the poor—Here poor is an adjective. But there is no noun after it. So poor here indicates the group of poor people.

The rich, the local, the kind.

6)In superlative degree sentences, the is used before superlative degree adjectives.

Eg. 1)John is the best student in his school.

2)It was one of the greatest decisions in my life.

6)The is also used before ordinals like the first, the second, the next, the last, and the following.

7)we use the before musical instruments.

Eg. the guitar, the harmonium, and the bagpipes.

8)When a singular noun represents the whole class.

Eg. The cow is a domestic animal.

The camel is the ship of the desert.

8)In rare situations we can use the with proper noun qualified by an adjective or adj. clause.

Eg.1)The great Nepolean, The warrior king Shivaji, The versatile author Shakespeare.

9) Sometimes we use the as an adverb(a word that adds something about a verb, adjective or another adverb in the same sentence) with comparative degree adjectives.

Eg. the more, the happier, the cooler.

These are the rules to use articles a/an, the in English grammar sentences correctly explained with proper examples. It is interesting to know where we should not use ARTICLES.

Where do we not use articles a, an, the

1) Most articles are not used before the names of people, proper nouns like Paris, John, Rita, surname, and material nouns like Iron, gold, copper, Jaggery, Sugar, Wheat, rice, and water. (Still, there are some exceptions to this rule as we have discussed above.

2)In some word groups if the noun is used with prepositions or possessive adjectives, articles are not used.

Eg. My story books-the storybooks, at noon, on earth, by train, by bus.

3)We should not use articles before the names of languages.

Eg. English, Spanish, Hindi, and Urdu.

4)Articles are not used before the names of relations like,

Eg. father, mother, brother, sister.

5)If we use nouns like school, college, church, hospital, market, court, and prison for their original purpose then we do not use articles before them.

Eg. 1)My friend is in school. (used for the original purpose)

2)I went to the school where I completed my education.(here school is not used for its original purpose)

3) My neighbor met with a minor accident, Now he is in hospital.

4)I went to meet him in the hospital.

5)If the predicative noun is denoting a unique position, don’t use the article before it.

Eg. 1)She was given an opportunity to become principal.

2)She was selected as chairman.

6)Articles are omitted before abstract nouns.

Eg. 1)Honesty is the best policy.

2)Love is in the air.

Exercise for the use of articles in English grammar

Fill in the blanks with proper articles

1)……..sun rises in ………east.

2)He climbed ……tree but he fell down from…….tree.

3)………Himalaya is the origin of…….Ganga river.

4)I like…… but ……apple is a very expensive fruit.

5)I went in …… to visit my schoolteachers.

Answers—1)the, the

2)a, the

3)the, the

4)an,  the



Here we come to the ending of this topic about the use of articles(a/an, the) in English grammar. We have learned all the necessary details regarding the use of English grammar articles, their uses with examples, rules to use articles, exercises, and an explanation of all the probable questions regarding the use of articles. We can even begin sentences with any article.

If you have any doubts, or suggestions about articles or any other English grammar topics, You are welcome here to submit your comments.

All the best,

With love+ respect,From Team learnhatkey.coms

Dipak D. Jagtap: Always the learner.Having spent 16 years in English language training, its time now to reach the world to learn more and to share my experience and practices....
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