Articles A-AN-THE definition
The indefinite articles A/AN are used when talking about a general or non-specific noun.
- Where is a teacher?
- A book is on the table.
- Did you bring a cake?
But unlike the definite article, A/AN can only be used with singular countable nouns. We can’t say a teachers, a books, a cakes.
Instead we use the definite article: the teachers, the books, the cakes.
- Where are the teachers?
- The books are on the table.
- Did you bring the cakes?
In English, we use an with any noun that starts with a vowel sound, NOT with a noun that starts with a vowel. This is very important because many nouns that start with a vowel don’t have a vowel sound such as university, we say a university NOT an university. Also, many vowel sounding words don’t start with a vowel for example hour, we say an hour.
Below is a list of nouns you can use ‘an’ with:
- an oven
- an apple
- an honour
- an octopus
- an auntie
- an injury
- an umbrella
- an egg
Here is a list of nouns used with A:
- a table
- a pillow
- a university
- a cake
- a bed
- a utopia
Here is a list of nouns used with An:
- an oven
- an orange
- an honour
- an invention
- an hour
- an evening
Here are examples of how we use A and An in a sentence:
- There is a university close to here.
- The movie starts in an hour.
- There is an octopus in the water.
- The new house doesn’t have an oven but it has a washing machine.
- I need an umbrella, it’s raining outside.
THE is called a definite article, we use the with all nouns and for specific nouns, like a certain person or a particular thing.
- Where is the teacher?
- The book is on the table
- Did you bring the cake?
The examples above are talking about specific things or people. In the first example, they are looking for a specific teacher, maybe a biology teacher or an English teacher. They are not looking for any teacher, they want to know where that particular teacher is.
The other two examples have a similar concept, example two is talking about a specific book on a specific table. And the third example is talking about a particular cake, maybe a birthday cake or a wedding cake.
NOW CHECK YOUR KNOWLEDGE!
A, AN, THE QUIZ
Fill in the blanks with articles THE, A / AN, or – where there is no article needed
Ordering a new TV
A: Hello. I was wondering if you 1)________ new Sony AT10? I haven’t seen 2)_________ single one on display. In your catalog you say 3)__________ model is available.
B: Hello, sir. We have that specific model available. However, we sold 4)________ last one here yesterday. We can, however, order 5)________ TV for you to be delivered here, or to your home address.
A: That’s great 6)________ news. Thank you so much.
B: Are you aware of 7)__________ discount on that particular model if you pay in 8)_________ cash?
A: No, I didn’t know. How big is 9)_________ discount?
B: If you pay in 10)__________ cash we will add 11)__________ 25% discount to 12)__________ original price.
A: Wow! That’s amazing. Yes, I can buy 13)__________ TV in 14)__________ cash. Will there be 15)_________ surcharge if I order it to my home address?
B: Yes, there will be 16)_________ delivery fee added to your order. It’s 17)_________ small fee compared to 18)_________ discount.
A: Of course. Let’s do it that way then.
B: Excellent choice, sir. Let me just print out 19)___________ delivery and order forms, so you can get 20)_________ TV as soon as possible
A: Thank you so much.
B: You’re welcome, sir. It’s 21)__________ great TV, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
Answers and explanations
1) THE – we use “the” in this case because the TV is a specific model. Among all the other Sony TVs that one is the only AT10
2) A – “a” is used here because the buyer is looking for even a single AT10 among all the possible AT10s. It’s a matter of looking for a thing within a stack of the same thing
3) THE – “the” is used because the AT10 is a specific model
4) THE – “the” is used here because “the” goes in front of any specific number. The last, the first, the second or third, etc. This is because it’s a specific thing, with a specific numeral value
5) THE – here we use “the” because the teller is talking about the specific TV the buyer wants
6) – no article is used here because news is an uncountable noun
7) THE – because the teller and buyer are talking about a specific model TV, the discount on that TV is also specific
8) – no article is used because “pay in cash” is a fixed expression. Cash is also an uncountable noun. While you can count the amount of money you have, that doesn’t matter because grammatically the noun “cash” is uncountable
9) THE – “the” specific discount for the specific TV
10) – “pay in cash”
11) A – we use “a” in this case because it’s one possibility our of many. 25% is just a single option out of 100. When there are many options, especially when we use %, “a” is used because it’s one of many
12) THE – “the” is used here because it’s a very specific price. The original price means that it’s one a kind. There can’t be more than one original prices
13) THE – because they’re still talking about the specific TV
14) – “pay in cash”
15) A – there are many possible surcharges that can be added to the final price for a product. A delivery surcharge is only one of many options. That’s why we use “a” in this case
16) A – similarly with 15) we use “a” because it’s one of many possible fees. Usually when things are added to something we use “a” because it means that one of the many possibilities was chosen
17) A – again, similar to both 15) and 16). In this case it’s a comparison, and we often compare one of many things to something specific. This is that kind of case
18) THE – because here we can see how “a small fee” is being compared to the one and only established “discount”
19) THE – in this case we have the plural noun “forms,” and we always use “the” with plural forms
20) THE – they are talking about the specific TV and model
21) A – here we use “a” because it’s one of the great TVs. It’s not the best, so it’s not the one and only best TV, but it is great along with all the other great TVs
A, AN, THE QUIZ PART 2
Fill in the blanks with articles THE, A / AN, or – if there’s no article required there
The House on the Hill part 1
Our friends told us about 1) ______ little town outside of 2) ______ city. They said it is 3) ______amazing. 4) ______ people are nice, 5) ______ food is local, and there is even 6) ______ small souvenir shop. It’s pretty hard to get to, but 7) ______ ride is worth it. So, we decided to pack 8) ______ suitcase, find 9) ______ place to stay, and spend 10) ______ week there. We also wanted to explore around 11) ______ town. We just moved to 12) ______ city, and wanted to see something different for 13) ______ change too.
We started 14) ______ trip on Monday, and it took us almost three hours to get to 15) ______ town. We got lost one or two times along 16) ______ way. On 17) ______ dirt road that didn’t go anywhere. When we finally made it 18) ______ town was everything we expected. Small town square with 19) ______ water fountain. 20) ______ church right on 21) ______ square, and 22) ______ small bazaar with local produce. 23) ______ people were just as nice as our 24) ______ friends said they would be. We found our guest house easily, and 25) ______ owner let us up to our room on 26) ______ top floor.
First we relaxed for 27) ______ bit. Took 28) ______ shower, changed clothes, and went out to get 29) ______ bite to eat. 30) ______ owner of 31) ______ guest house recommended 32) ______ restaurant right across from 33) ______ church. He said it was 34) ______ best in town. Probably because it was 35) ______ only one in town we could find. 36) ______ food was great, extremely spicy for my taste, and 37) ______ waiters were chatty. We asked them about 38) ______ outskirts of 39) ______ town. Some hiking routes, places to see, and 40) ______ things to do in general.
It all sounded very nice. We were sure we could have 41) ______ relaxing holiday in 42) ______ town. Then one of 43) ______ younger kids who were running around 44) ______ restaurant came up to us. He started telling us 45) ______ story about 46) ______ place that 47) ______ older people in 48) ______ town won’t tell you about. He said 49) ______ kids in 50) ______ town only know of it. 51) ______special place not too far away from 52) ______ church.
In 53) ______ forest, on top of 54) ______ hill south of 55) ______ town, there’s 56) ______ house. 57) ______ kid told us it’s been there for hundreds of years. He also said that it was haunted.
We always loved 58) ______ adventures. I always wanted to see 59) ______ haunted house. We decided to check it out as soon as 60) ______ sun sets.
1) A: because the town is not named, and it’s one of many towns
2) THE: we use THE here because the person talking lives in a specific city. From their point of view it’s THE city where they live
3) – : no article here because it’s in front of an adjective without a noun
4) THE: because people living in that town are THE people
5) THE: the food their grow is their food, THE food
6) A: here we use A because the souvenir shop is not special, there are many like it in other towns. It’s a general statement not specific to only that town
7) THE: THE specific amount of time it takes to get to the town
8) A: general statement, the phrase being “to pack a suitcase” just means to pack your things
9) A: there are many places to stay, and they want one of them
10) A: A week because it’s not a highly specific amount. It can be shorter or longer still
11) THE: because the town has been mentioned before, now it’s specific
12) THE: place where the speaker lives
13) A: “for A change” is a fixed expression
14) THE: specific trip they are making
15) THE: specific destination, and the town is already mentioned before
16) THE: “along THE way” is a fixed expression
17) A: one of the many dirt roads that lead to the town
18) THE: specific town, already mentioned
19) A: we use A here because describing things in general, without saying all the specifics about a certain place. Generally, A is used when saying which kinds of buildings are wherein a town. You are just naming the type of building and not the specific one at that specific place
20) A: same as before, a general description
21) THE: here we use THE because the square was mentioned before
22) A: general description
23) THE: specific people who live in that town
24) – : there are no articles after possessive pronouns, like OUR
25) THE: we use THE because there can be a specific owner. We can also use THE with the plural forms, like THE owners. THE is used when talking about specific positions, like owner, director, doctor, etc.
26) THE: there can only be one top floor
27) A: “for A bit” is a fixed expression
28) A: “take A shower” is also fixed, because there isn’t only one shower you ever took
29) A: “get A bite” is fixed
30) THE: specific owner
31) THE: the guest house was mentioned before, now it’s specific
32) A: the owner recommended A restaurant among the many that there might be in the town
33) THE: church was mentioned before and it’s now a specific one
34) THE: we use because there can, technically, be only one best thing. In general we use THE with best
35) THE: the same thing goes for THE only
36) THE: THE specific food in the specific restaurant
37) THE: waiters are from that same specific restaurant
38) THE: since the town is a specific one THE outskirts are too
39) THE: specific town where they are staying
40) – : no article in front of things because here it’s uncountable
41) A: one of the many holidays they had and will have
42) THE: specific town
43) THE: kids who were running means they are described, specific, and because of that we use THE
44) THE: specific restaurant where they are sitting
45) A: the story is not specific before he starts telling it
46) A: a specific place is not mentioned yet
47) THE: older people describes them and they are specific now
48) THE: town where they are staying
49) THE: kids were mentioned before
50) THE: specific town
51) A: no specific place mentioned yet
52) THE: the church is known and mentioned before
53) A: he is just describing the forest, and where it is
54) A: the hill has yet to be described completely
55) THE: specific town
56) A: this is the first time he mentions A house, and where it is
57) THE: the kid is known and mentioned before, he’s telling the story
58) – : adventures here is uncountable
59) A: there are many haunted houses, and the speaker always wanted to see at least one of them
60) THE: there is only one sun