Skip to content

AVOID THESE ERRORS! – The Definite and Indefinite ARTICLES in English (The, A, An): When to Use Them?

    Today, we will dive into a topic that can sometimes be a bit tricky for English learners: ARTICLES. Yes, those tiny words “A”, “AN” and “THE” can make a big difference in your sentences.

    How are articles used in English?

    What are Articles?

    First things first, what are articles? Articles are tiny words that come before a noun to specify whether the noun is general or specific. There are two types of articles: definite and indefinite.

    Definite Article (‘The‘):
    We use ‘the‘ when we are talking about a specific noun that both the speaker and the listener know about.
    For example, «The cat», The book».

    Indefinite Articles (‘A‘ and ‘An‘):
    We use ‘a‘ before words that begin with a consonant sound, and we use ‘an‘ before words that begin with a vowel sound. For example, «A cat», «An apple».

    Remember, it’s about the sound, and not the letter.

    Common Mistakes

    Using ‘a‘ or ‘an‘ incorrectly.

    Incorrect: «I saw an elephant in a zoo».

    Correct: «I saw an elephant in the zoo».

    The mistake here was missing ‘the’ before a specific noun.

    Incorrect: «She is going to university».

    Correct: «She is going to the university».

    Let’s look at some examples of definite and Indefinite articles.

    Definite Article (‘The‘):

    «I met a friend at the park. The friend had a dog with them».

    «A student forgot their backpack in the classroom. The teacher found the backpack and returned it to the student».

    Now, let’s look at some examples of indefinite articles.

    Indefinite Articles (‘A‘ and ‘An‘):

    «She bought a car yesterday. The car is red and shiny».

    «An apple a day keeps the doctor away. The apple is a healthy fruit».

    When Not to Use an English Article

    1. We usually use no article to talk about things in general.
    E.g. «Sugar is good for you». You can’t say «The sugar is good for you» or «A sugar is good for you».

    2. We do not use an article when talking about sports and games.
    E.g. «Let’s go and play Tennis».

    3. Do not use an article before the name of a country unless the name suggests that the country is made up of smaller units or constituent parts.
    E.g. «Japan, Italy», etc. Don’t say «The Japan» or «The Itay» because it is a mistake.

    But you can say «The UK» (United Kingdom), «The USA» (United States of America), «The Irish Republic». You can use articles the before State, Republic and Union, they need an article.

    4. Do not use an article before the name of language.
    E.g. «We are learning French». Do not say «we are the French».

    5. Do not use article before the names of meals if they refer to the meals generally, as a part of the daily routine.
    E.g. «They invited some family members to Lunch» . Do not say «They invited some family members to the Lunch»

    6. Do not use article before noun + number.
    E.g. «The maths class is taking place in room 6 on the fifth floor». Do not say «The maths class is taking place in the room».

    Book Your English Lessons Online

    Articles with Countable and Uncountable Nouns

    Countable nouns are individual objects, people, places, etc. meaning you can have many more, which can be counted.

    For example: «An apple, a pen, a book». You can count how many of those you have.

    Uncountable nouns are individual objects which cannot be counted, such as information, materials, you cannot count them, you cannot water. Those are examples of uncountable nouns.

    So, we use the article ‘A/ An‘ when the noun is in the singular, it is countable and it is non-specific.
    E.g. «A pen», «An Orange».
    If you have one pen, it is singular. If you have more than one pen, then you will say «The pens» or «The pencils». You cannot more say «An pencils» or «A pencils».

    Use the article ‘The‘ when the noun is either specific, in the plural form and it is either countable/ uncountable. E.g. «The men», «The boys».

    Last but not least, use no article when the noun is countable/uncountable, in the plural form, and non-specific.

    Let’s practice!

    Great! It’s practice time! Choose which article fits best in the next sentences. Ready?

    1. I need ___ new laptop.

    2. She wants to become ___ astronaut.

    3. He is going to ___ store to buy ___ milk.

    4. She is studying at ___ university in London.

    5. He works at ___ hospital as a surgeon.

    Please do not forget to leave your answers in the comment section below. In the next video, we will learn about Masculine and Feminine.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *