Articles – a, an, the

The indefinite article “a/an” 

We use the indefinite article a/an (which means one) before a singular noun that we mention for the first time.


This is a book.

If the word before the indefinite article starts with a consonant (e.g b,c,d,f etc) we use a. However, if it starts with a vowel (e.g a,o,i,e,u) we use an.


a baby, a cat, a newspaper, a desk

an apple, an ice cream, an elephant, an umbrella

 The definite article “the” 

The definite article the is used:

  • with nouns when talking about something specific. Example: The kids in my class are very clever.
  • with nouns that are unique Example: the sun, the moon etc
  • with the names of cinemas, theaters, newspapers, museums, hotels, ships, organizations Example: The Hilton, The Times
  • with the names of oceans, seas rivers, canals Example: The Atlantic Ocean
  • with the names of mountain ranges, groups of islands, deserts
    Example: The Alps, The Bahamas, The Sahara desert
  • with the names of musical instruments and dances
  • with the names of families Example: the Browns
  • with nationalities ending in –sh, -ch, -ese. The other nationalities can be used with or without the
    Example: The Chinese
  • with titles not including a proper name Example: the President
  • with historical periods Example: the Ice agein some phrases: go to the cinema/theatre, in the morning/evening/afternoon etc

The definite article the is not used:

  • with uncountable and plural nouns when talking about something in general. Example: Kids like ice cream.(all kids)
  • with proper nouns Example: John, Martin etc
  • with the names of sports, games, activities, days, months and meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
  • with the names of, continents, cities, towns, villages and countries which do not include state, kingdom or republic.
    Example: China, Europe  (but the Netherlands, the Vatican)
  • with languages, ( English) unless they are followed by the word language (the English language)
  • with the names of streets, squares, parks, mountains, individual islands, lakes, bridges
    Example: Hyde park, Union street, Malta, Tower bridge (but the Golden Gate Bridge)
  • with by + means of transport Example: by train, by plane, by car etc
  • with the words bed, school, hospital, college, work etc when we refer to the purpose for which we are there and not the exact place or building. Example: She has been in hospital for two weeks.

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