How to use the articles a, an & the

In English, there are three articles: a, an, and the. These can be categorised as either indefinite or definite articles.

There are two types of articles: indefinite articles and definite articles.
Articles come before a noun and are used to modify the noun. They give basic information about the noun being referred to.
We can identify whether the noun being referred to is a singular or a plural noun, or if the noun is a specific noun or a general noun.

It is common for English learners to get confused with when and how to use the correct articles. 

When do we use the article a? When do we use the article an?

The indefinite articles are a and an. These articles are used to refer to general singular nouns. However, the use of these articles depends on whether the first letter of the noun begins with a vowel or consonant

Indefinite article a

The indefinite article a is used before a word beginning with a consonant.

E.g. There is a book on the desk. 📕  ➜ The letter b is a consonant. 

Examples of article a:

  • a car  🚗
  • a bike  🚲
  • a dog  🐕
  • a house  🏠
  • a lion  🦁

Indefinite article an

The indefinite article an is used before a word beginning with a vowel.

E.g. There is an apple in the bowl. 🍎  ➜ The letter a is a vowel. 

Examples of article an:

  • an aligator  🐊
  • an elephant  🐘
  • an insect  🐜
  • an octopus  🐙
  • an umbrella  ☂️

When do we use the article the?

Definite article the

The definite article is the. This article is used with specific singular and plural nouns.
We usually use the definite article the when we already know the noun being referred to. It can also be used when talking about something that there is only one of e.g. the earth. 🌍

Examples of article the:

  • the sky  🌌
  • the world  🗺
  • the box  📦
  • the United Kingdom  🇬🇧
  • the information  📝

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