skip to Main Content

Define the Article Correctly

Articles1

Definite Article: “the”

The definite article the is the most frequent word in English.

We use the definite article in front of a noun when we believe the hearer/reader knows exactly what we are referring to.

Because there is only one:

The Pope is visiting Russia.
The moon is very bright tonight.
The Shah of Iran was deposed in 1979.

This is why we use the definite article with a superlative adjective:

He is the tallest boy in the class.
It is the oldest building in the town.

Because there is only one in that place or in those surroundings:

We live in a small village next to the church. = (the church in our village)
Dad, can I borrow the car? = (the car that belongs to our family)
When we stayed at my grandmother’s house we went to the beach every day. = (the beach near my grandmother’s house)
Look at the boy in the blue shirt over there. = (the boy I am pointing at)

Because we have already mentioned it:

A woman who fell 10 metres from High Peak was lifted to safety by a helicopter. The woman fell while climbing.
The rescue is the latest in a series of incidents on High Peak. In January last year two men walking on the peakwere killed in a fall.

We also use the definite article:

To say something about all the things referred to by a noun:

The wolf is not really a dangerous animal (= Wolves are not really dangerous animals)
The kangaroo is found only in Australia (= Kangaroos are found only in Australia)
The heart pumps blood around the body. (= Hearts pump blood around bodies)

We use the definite article in this way to talk about musical instruments:

Joe plays the piano really well.(= Joe can play any piano)
She is learning the guitar.(= She is learning to play any guitar)

To refer to a system or service:

How long does it take on the train?
I heard it on the radio.
You should tell the police.

With adjectives like rich, poor, elderly, unemployed to talk about groups of people:

Life can be very hard for the poor.
I think the rich should pay more taxes.
She works for a group to help the disabled.

The definite article with names:

We do not normally use the definite article with names:

William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet.
Paris is the capital of France.
Iran is in Asia.

But we do use the definite article with:

Countries whose names include words like kingdom, states or republic:

the United Kingdom; the Kingdom of Nepal; the United States; the People’s Republic of China.

Countries which have plural nouns as their names:

the Netherlands; the Philippines

Geographical features, such as mountain ranges, groups of islands, rivers, seas, oceans and canals:

the Himalayas; the Canaries; the Atlantic; the Atlantic Ocean; the Amazon; the Panama Canal.

Newspapers:

The Times; The Washington Post

Well known buildings or works of art:

the Empire State Building; the Taj Mahal; the Mona Lisa; the Sunflowers

Organisations:

the United Nations; the Seamen’s Union

Hotels, pubs and restaurants*:

the Ritz; the Ritz Hotel; the King’s Head; the Déjà Vu

*Note: We do not use the definite article if the name of the hotel or restaurant is the name of the owner, e.g.,Brown’s; Brown’s Hotel; Morel’s; Morel’s Restaurant, etc.

Families:

the Obamas; the Jacksons

Indefinite Article: “a” and “an”

We use the indefinite article, a/an, with count nouns when the hearer/reader does not know exactly which one we are referring to:

Police are searching for a 14 year-old girl.

We also use it to show the person or thing is one of a group:

She is a pupil at London Road School.

Police have been searching for a 14 year-old girl who has been missing since Friday.

Jenny Brown, a pupil at London Road School, is described as 1.6 metres tall with short blonde hair.

She was last seen wearing a blue jacket, a blue and white blouse and dark blue jeans and blue shoes.

Anyone who has information should contact the local police on 0800349781.

We do not use an indefinite article with plural nouns and uncount nouns:

She was wearing blue shoes. (= plural noun)
She has short blonde hair. (= uncount noun)

Police have been searching for a 14 year-old girl who has been missing since Friday.

Jenny Brown, a pupil at London Road School, is described as 1.6 metres tall with short blonde hair.

She was last seen wearing a blue jacket, a blue and white blouse and dark blue jeans and blue shoes.

Anyone who has information should contact the local police on 0800349781.

We use a/an to say what someone is or what job they do:

My brother is a doctor.
George is a student.

We use a/an with a singular noun to say something about all things of that kind:

A man needs friends. (= All men need friends)
A dog likes to eat meat. (= All dogs like to eat meat)

The ‘Zero’ Article

To talk about plural and uncountable nouns or when talking about things in general:

I’m terrified of heights
I’m into drum and bass.
I hate cheese.

Before countries, towns, streets, languages and single mountains:

I’m from China.
I’ve climbed Mount Everest.
She speaks French.

Before some places and with some forms of transport:

I live at home with my parents.
I came here by car.
He goes to work by bus.

In exclamations with what + uncountable noun:

What beautiful weather!
What loud music!
What disgusting food!

Sources of information was used for preparing this article:

  1. British Council
  2. BBC Learning English

Leave a Reply

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

By sending a message, I confirm that I have read and agree with privacy policy and accept user agreement

Back To Top
Search