A, An, The – Articles in English

ARTICLES:

While we are using nouns in English, we sometimes feel the need to use some additions to them/ before them.

These additions are called “Articles” which is any of the English words “a“, “an“, and “the“. They identify whether a noun is definite (specific or particular) or indefinite (general or unspecific).




Articles are divided into two categories:

  • 1) The Definite Article – ‘the’
  • 2) The Indefinite Articles ­– ‘a and an’

Note:

When we are talking about a noun, we have to ask ourselves the following question.

‘ What Kind of a Noun Am I Describing?’. And then We can choose one of the articles according to our answer.

If our answer is nonspecific noun, we use “a” or “an”.

If our answer is specific noun, we use “the”.

 

1) INDEFINITE ARTICLES  A / AN

For much more information about A & An

a. “a/an” is used in front of singular countable nouns ( a person, animal or thing ) which are not specific.

Examples:

  • a vehicle
  • a man
  • a dog
  • an apple
  • an umbrella
  • There is an elephant in the zoo.
  • She is a beutiful woman.
  • It is an informal way.
  • There is a cat behind the door.




b. We don’t use “a/an” before uncountable or plural nouns.

Examples:

  • Can you give me a tea? ( wrong ) Can you give me some tea? ( correct )
  • A weather is rainy. ( wrong )   The weather is rainy. ( correct )
  • There are a books on the table. ( wrong ) There are three books on the table. ( correct )

c. The only one difference between A and AN;

If a noun starts with a consonant sound (b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, etc.), “a” comes before the noun.

Examples:

  • a chair
  • a bird
  • a child

If the noun starts with a vowel sound (a, e, i, o, u), “an” comes before the noun.

Examples:

  • an orange
  • an egg
  • an ant

Attention!!

In english, sounds of the words are important for using articles “a/an”.

Some nouns can start with a vowel letter. However, if its pronunciation ( the sound of the word ) starts with a consonant sound, “a” is used.

Examples:

  • a university ( “u” sound like yu )
  • a European ( “e” sound like y )

Some nouns can start with a consonant sound. However, if its pronunciation ( the sound of the word ) starts with a vowel sound, “an” is used.

Examples:

  • an hour ( “h” is silent )
  • an honest man ( “h” is silent )

2) DEFINITE ARTICLE ( THE )

We use ‘the’ in front of all nouns ( It does not matter whether the nouns are singular, plural countable or uncountable ) to describe someone or something specific or unique.

Examples:

  • Can you give me the ball? ( When talking about a special ball, not any of balls)
  • You should put the books on the shelf.
  • The shop is next to the hospital.
  • Last week I watched the new animated movie.
  • The soup was really delicious.

Using “The”;

a. It is used in front of nouns which we mentioned before

Examples:

  • Do you remember the woman I told you about?
  • Give me back the pen I gave you yesterday.
  • Please, select a book from the library. Good! Now, quikly turn the pages in the book.

b. It is used in front of nouns that are only one in the nature like sun, moon, earth, etc.

Examples:

  • the North pole
  • the South pole
  • the earth
  • the world
  • the universe
  • the sun
  • the moon
  • the sky
  • the air
  • the weather
  • the wind
  • the rain
  • the sea
  • the planet

c. It is used in front of geographic nouns ( like rivers, oceans, seas, deserts, forests, coasts, swamps,  etc.) except from individual lakes, islands and mountains)

Examples:

  • the Nile River
  • the Baltic Sea
  • the Atlantic / Pacific Ocean
  • the Sahara Desert
  • the Amazon Forest
  • the Ivory Coast
  • the Vasyugan Swamp

Note:

If we talk about collections of lakes, groups of islands ( archipelago ), and mountain chains ( not individual lakes, islands, and mountains), ‘the’ is used.

Examples:

  • the Island Hawai ( group of islands )
  • the Greece Islands ( group of islands )
  • the Himalayas ( mountain chain )
  • the Dolomites ( mountain chain )
  • the Finger Lakes ( collection of lakes )
  • the Great Lakes ( collection of lakes )
  • Lake Michigan ( individual lake )
  • Utah Lake ( individual lake )
  • Cyprus ( individual island )
  • Jamaica ( individual island )
  • Everest ( individual mountain )
  • Mount Olympus ( individual mountain )

d. It is used in front of adjectives when we talk about particular groups or people within society.

Examples:

  • The rich have much money. ( The rich mean rich peoeple )
  • The poor do not have money. ( The poor mean poor people )
  • The young are very energetic. ( The young mean young people )
  • The old think past. ( The old mean old people )

e. It is used in front of musical instruments, cultural institutions and inventions like violin, piano, opera, radio, etc.

Examples:

  • the piano
  • the guitar
  • the violin
  • the flute
  • the drum
  • the theatre
  • the opera
  • the telephone
  • the radio
  • the television

BUT:

We do not mostly use ‘the’ with TV as an abbreviation.

Example:

  • There is a nice movie on TV. ( TV means television )

f. It is used in front of the people of the countries. (For the list of Countries and People(Citizen) in English)

Examples:

  • The Canadian
  • The English
  • The Chinese
  • The French
  • The Mexican
  • The Russian

BUT:

Nationalities or ethnic groups that end in “-ans”, like “Americans”, ‘the’ is not usually used.

Examples:

  • Mexicans
  • Hawaiians
  • Americans
  • Germans

g. It is used in front of a specific date while speaking but when we write it, we don’t use ‘the’.

Example:

Speaking: ‘We’ll go to America on the eighth of August’

Writing: We’ll go to America on 8th August.
h. It is used in front of university names which are used with ‘of’

Examples:

  • the University of Chicago
  • the University of London
  • the University of Texas

i. It is used in front of newspapers, buildings, empire, dynasty,  temples, holy books, special ships and train, public enterprises, institutions names.

Examples:

  • the Titanic
  • the Taj Mahal
  • the East Roman Empire
  • the Temple of  Artemis
  • the Times
  • the Grand Hotel
  • the Middle Eastern Languages Research Institute
  • the Bible

j. It is used in front of certain numbers

Examples:

  • the first
  • the second
  • the fifth

 

NO ARTICLES

a. Plural countable or uncountable nouns ( as a generalization ) do not get ‘the’

Examples:

  • Curiosity is a major feature for discoveries. ( NOT The Curiosity )
  • Mexican food is spicy. ( NOT The Mexican food )
  • Water is an indispensible need for all living things. ( NOT The Water )
  • Religion is a very important concept for many people .  ( NOT The Religion )
  • Privacy is needed in all areas. ( NOT The Privacy )

b. Names of people do not get “the”

Examples:

  • The John ( wrong ) John ( correct )
  • The Susan ( wrong ) Susan ( correct )
  • The Steven ( wrong ) Steven ( correct )
  • The Margaret ( wrong )  Margaret ( correct )

BUT:

Family names ( If the last name with ‘s’ is written and is used to indicate the whole family)  get ‘the’

Examples:

  • The Smiths ( The members of the Smith family) / ( The Smiths will come to us tomorrow. )
  • The Kennedys ( The members of the Kennedy family )
  • The Browns ( The members of the Brown family )
  • The Candys ( The members of the Candy family )

c. Countries, cities, towns, states and streets do not get ‘the’ (For The List of Detailed Country Names in English)

Examples:

  • The England ( wrong )  England ( correct )
  • The London ( wrong )   London ( correct )
  • The Germany ( wrong ) Germany ( correct )
  • The Berlin ( wrong )      Berlin ( correct )
  • The Ville Town ( wrong )  Ville Town ( correct )
  • The State of Alaska ( wrong )  State of Alaska ( correct )
  • The Oxford Street ( wrong )  Oxford Street ( correct )

BUT:

If the countries consist of emirates, provinces or federations, unions and kingdom ‘the’ is used in front of the countries.

Examples:

  • the United States of America (The U.S.)
  • the United Kingdom (The UK)
  • the United Arabic Emirates

If the form of government is mentioned, ‘the’ is used in front of the countries.

Examples:

  • the Republic of Italy
  • the People’s Republic of China

If the country mentioned is the island country or the name of the country is plural, “the” is used

Examples:

  • the Netherlands
  • the Philippines

d. Geographical places like continents, beaches, waterfalls, and canyons do not get ‘the’

Examples:

  • Asia
  • Ora Beach
  • Angel Falls
  • Beaver Canyon

e. Planets do not get ‘the’

Examples:

  • Mars
  • Saturn
  • Mercury

BUT:

If planets names are used with the word of planet, ‘the’ is used

Examples:

  • the Planet Uranus
  • the Planet Jupiter
  • the Planet Venus

f. Scientific branches, languages, do not get ‘the’

Examples:

  • The Chemistry ( wrong ) Chemistry ( correct )
  • The Geometry ( wrong ) Geometry ( correct )
  • The Mathematics ( wrong ) Mathematics ( correct )
  • The Astronomy ( wrong ) Astronomy ( correct )
  • The Psychology ( wrong ) Psychology ( correct )
  • French ( language not people )
  • English ( language not people )
  • Spanish ( language not people )

g. Games and sports do not get “the”

Examples:

  • Football
  • Voleyball
  • Basketball
  • Poker
  • Skiing

h. If directional words (like north, west, southeast, left, right) directly follow a verb, ‘the’ is not used

Examples:

  • I should walk south.
  • At the corner, turn left and go straight.

BUT:

If a direction follows a preposition, we must use THE.

Examples:

  • They had to go to the north.
  • My country is in the west.
  • Our office is on the left.


i.
Months and days do not get ‘the’

Examples:

  • I will see you Monday.
  • April and May are very colorful months.

 

3 thoughts on “A, An, The – Articles in English

  • April 21, 2017 at 4:07 pm
    Permalink

    Hello,
    I would like to ask you why my Grammarly named app did not correct the following sentence: the life is an a priori lost world war? What is the explanation of this? Or only the app is wrong.?

    Thank you for your help in advance.

    Yours faithfully
    LT

    Reply

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