Definite, Indefinite and No Article
The Indefinite Article – A / AN
We use A/AN with:
1. Singular nouns and the first time we refer to a person, animal or thing.
- a child
- an elephant
- a television
2. We don't use A/AN with possessive pronouns, demonstratives or cardinal numbers.
- My shirt is dirty.
- This car is expensive.
- One person is in the reception.
3. We use ONE (or more) instead of A/AN when the number is important.
- There is only one exit from the airport.
What is the difference between A and AN?
A is used when the next word begins with a consonant sound (b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k etc).
- a book
- a table
- a clock
- a university (because the beginning of university sounds like YOU-niversity)
AN is used when the next word begins with a vowel sound (a, e, i, o, u).
- an apple
- an elephant
- an umbrella
- an hour (because the H is silent)
Try our game to practice the difference between A and AN.
The Definite Article – THE
We use THE with:
1. A singular or plural noun when it is clear/obvious which person or thing we are talking about.
- There is a lamp in my bedroom. (we mention the lamp for the first time)
- The lamp is next to the desk.
2. Anything which we identify immediately.
- We watched the new Brad Pitt movie last night.
3. Musical instruments (the violin, the guitar, the drums, the flute, the piccolo).
- She plays the piano.
4. Something that is unique or there is only one.
- the sun
- the moon
- the internet.
5. Names of rivers, seas, oceans, mountain ranges and deserts (always in capitals).
- The Mississippi River
- The Black Sea
- The Andes
- The Sahara Desert
6. Directions (cardinal points).
- the west
- the south-east
- the north-west.
We use no article with:
- Religion is an important issue. (NOT The religion is an important issue)
- Mexican food is spicy. (NOT The Mexican food is spicy).
2. Names of people, books and plays (unless it is part of the title).
- I have read Romeo and Juliet.
3. Towns, cities, states and countries.
- Cape Town
(Exceptions – The USA, The UK, The Netherlands, The Czech Republic, The Philippines).
4. Lakes, single islands, continents or mountains.
- Lake Victoria
- Mt Fuji
6. Sports or games
Try our interactive game to practice the difference between A and AN.
Learn about the difference between Some, Any, A and An
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