How to use articles a/an, the correctly in English


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 how to use articles a/an/the correctly.

Most common confusion is whether to use 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 article? How is article used in a sentence and what is its function? When to use a/an/the ? who will tell me the rules, examples of using articles? Who will tell me the right answer?

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

What is Article?

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

How to use a/an with rules in English grammar sentences–

We have just learnt that a/an is indefinite article. Here are the right instructions to use it correctly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eg.One book=a book.

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

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

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

Now we will study use of the

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

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, sea, ocean, continent, 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, the Atlantic ocean.

The America, the Australia, the Asia, the Europe

The Sahara desert, the Kalahari, the Gobi.

The Alps, the Himalayas, the Rocky.

The Suez- canal, the north, the east.

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

The Bible, The Gita, The Guru Granth Sahib.

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

Eg. the poor—Here poor is adjective. But there is no any 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, the following.

7)we use the before musical instruments.

Eg. the guitar, the harmonium, 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)Some times we use the as an adverb(word which adds something about 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—

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

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

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

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

Eg. English, Spanish, Hindi, 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, prison for their original purpose then we do not use articles before them.

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

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

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

4)I went to meet him in the hospital.

5)If predicative noun is denoting unique position, don’t use 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 learning articles—(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 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).We have learnt all the necessary details regarding the use of English grammar articles, their uses with examples, rules to use articles, exercises and explanation of all the probable questions regarding the use of articles. We can even begin sentence with any article.

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

All the best,

With love+ respect,

From Team learnhatkey.coms

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