Articles in English
by Viv Quarry (www.vivquarry.com)
Articles are words which may or may not be used before a noun to demonstrate if the noun is new to the listener or reader (the indefinite article) or if the listener or reader already knows exactly what we are talking about (the definite article). Articles are part of a group of words called 'determiners'.
The Indefinite Article (A or An).
We use A/An with singular, countable nouns when mentioning them for the first time.
They have two children, a boy and a girl.
There's a new hospital in the city centre. (See notes 24, 28 &29 below)
We use 'A' before a noun or adjective which begins with a consonant sound.
I'd like a cup of tea. She's got a blue bag.
We use 'An' before a noun or adjective which begins with a vowel sound.
I'd like an orange juice. She's got an exceptional memory.
Sometimes a word begins with a consonant, but the word has a vowel sound. In this case use 'An' (see note 4 below)
I'll see you in an hour. (pronounced /AU UH/) She's doing an MBA. (pron. /EM BEE AY/)
Sometimes a word begins with a vowel, but the word has a consonant sound. In this case use 'A'.
He's got a European car. (pron. /YOOR UH PEE UN/) Is there a university in Campos? (pron. /YOO NI VER SI TEE/)
In some countries, the word for A/An is the same as the word for the number 1. In English we
only use '1' when we want to specify that there are not two, three or four of something.
She's got a new car.
Has she got two cars?
No, she hasn't. She's only got one car.
There are certain specific cases when we must normally use an article, and other situations where an article is not usually necessary. You should try to learn these special cases.
Use 'A' or 'An' with:
I'm a teacher. She's an architect.
2. Some expressions of quantity
A lot of A couple of sth.
A little A thousand
A few Three times a day
A pair of shoes. Forty miles an hour
3. Exclamations with What + countable noun
What a lovely day! What a terrible hat!
4. Use 'An' with silent consonants (see introduction above)
An honour An honest person
Don't use A or An with:
5. Plural nouns 7. Meals
X Children usually go to school. I had X breakfast at 8.30.
6. Uncountable nouns 8. Abstract nouns (see 27 below)
Buy X bread and X milk, please. X Heavy industry causes X pollution.
The Definite Article (The).
We use 'The' before all nouns which are mentioned for a second (or third, fourth etc.) time, or which both speaker and listener already know about.
They have two children, a boy and a girl. The girl is six and the boy is 10.
I'm just going to the supermarket. Do we need anything?
Where are the kids? In the garden.
The definite article (the) can be pronounced in two ways:
/DHUH/ before a consonant sound e.g. the cat = /DZUH KAT/
/DZEE/ before a vowel sound e.g. the eggs = /DZEE EGZ/
Use 'The' with:
9. Nouns where there is only one
The President The sun
10. Ordinal numbers
The first The fifth time
The best The most beautiful place in the world.
12. Geographical areas
The Middle East The Midwest
13. Nationality and geopolitical adjectives when followed by a noun or defining the people
The Federal University The International Airport (see 39 below)
14. Seas & oceans
The Atlantic The Mediterranean
15. Rivers & deserts
The Nile The Sahara
16. Most hotels
The Hilton The Copacabana Palace Hotel
The Red Lion The Queen's Legs
18. Theatres and cinemas
The Odeon The Municipal Theatre
The Museum of Modern Art The Carmen Miranda Museum
The New York Times The Guardian
21. Mountain ranges (see 35 below)
The Himalayas The Alps
22. Groups of countries, islands or states
The Bahamas The EEC
23. Musical instruments
Play the piano Good on the violin
24. Public buildings (see 28&29 below)
When I was in Oxford I saw the university. She works at the hospital on Fridays.
25. Radio and computer (see 38 below)
I heard it on the radio. It's on the computer at work.
Don't use 'The' or 'A/An' with:
26. When talking about people and things in general. Cat's like milk.
27. Uncountable and abstract nouns (see 8 above) X Heavy industry causes X pollution.
unless defined The pollution in the city centre is worse today.
28. Places where the focus is on the activity which I went to X university to take an exam.
takes place there. (See 24 above) The kids were at X school all day.
29. Prison & hospital if a prisoner or patient She spent three months in X prison.
(See 24 above) We took her to X hospital after the accident.
He travelled across X Asia. Monaco is in X Europe.
X Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world. X Russia is the biggest.
X London is the capital of the UK. X Rio de Janeiro isn't the capital of Brazil.
I live in X Oxford street. X Park Lane is in the centre of London.
X Lake Titicaca is between Bolivia and Peru. X Lake Victoria is in Africa.
35. Mountains (see 21 above)
I wanted to climb X Mount Everest. X Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK
36. Possessive 's'
It's X John's book. X Brazil's economic situation.
37. All + time expression
I've been waiting all X day. We spent all X week there.
38. TV and most recording media (see 25 above)
I saw it on X TV. I've saved it on X cd-rom.
39. Airports (see 13 above)
I arrived at X JFK at 6am. What time do you get in to X Heathrow?
40. With most countable clothes and parts of the body we use a possessive adjective, not 'the'
He put on his coat and shoes. I hurt my arm playing rugby.
(after prepositions we often use 'the')'' He patted me on the back.
Note! For every grammatical rule, there is usually at least one exception!!!