- Indefinite article: A or AN
The indefinite article is used to refer to something not specifically known to the person you are communicating with. We normally use it:
– To introduce s.o./sth. that has not been mentioned before:
I saw an elephant this morning.
I ate a banana for dessert.
– To talk about professions:
I am an English teacher and he is a builder.
She is eager to work as a barrister.
– To express rates:
My wife earns little over 1.200€ a month.
He was driving at only 50 kilometres an hour when the police stopped him.
Note: we use ‘a’ or ‘an’ depending on the first sound of the next word, not the letter. If it’s a consonant sound, ‘a’; if it is a vowel sound, ‘an’.
Let me get an umbrella.
I’ll have it finished in an hour.
If I could, I’d like to work in a university.
- Definite article: THE
We use normally ‘the’:
– To talk about something you have already mentioned:
She’s got two children; a boy and a girl. The boy is eight and the girl is fourteen.
– To talk about geographical points on the globe, rivers, oceans and seas:
The North Pole is probably the coldest place on Earth.
The River Nile is in Africa.
– To refer to certain nouns when there is only one:
It’s a beautiful day thanks to the sun.
The Pentagon is one of the safest places in the US.
– To say that a particular person or thing is the best, most famous, etc.:
If you love burgers, Foster’s Hollywood is the place to go.
– To talk about countries with the words ‘kingdom’, ‘states’, ‘emirates’, ‘republic’:
I spent my last summer in the United Kingdom learning English.
– To talk about countries or territories with multiple areas:
Apparently, marihuana is legal in the Netherlands.
I have been told that the Philippines are wonderful!
– To talk about numbered roads and motorways:
We drove on the A25 for three kilometres before taking the exit onto the M6.
– To use superlatives and with first, second, third when they are adjectives:
John won the first prize. He wrote the best story.
– To express groups with adjectives:
With this crisis, the poor are growing poorer whilst the rich are growing richer.
– To talk about the names of theatres, cinemas, hotels, galleries and museums:
The National Gallery and the British Museum are London tourist attractions.
- Zero article
We don’t normally use an article:
– To talk about things in general:
People drive me crazy with their spelling mistakes.
Unfortunately, money is at the chore of everyone’s problems.
– To talk about sports:
My best friend loves football.
Golf must be one of the most expensive sports to practise.
– Individual mountains and lakes:
Lake Victoria and Mount Kilimanjaro are both in Africa.
– To talk about most countries:
Italy is a lovely place to live in.
– With certain expressions: at home, go home, go to bed, be at home/work, next/last + time expression, etc.
I’ve been at home all weekend.
We might go to the cinema next week.
– To talk about institutions and their normal purpose: church, hospital, school, prison, university, etc.
After the accident, Jimmy had to spend a week in hospital.
If I didn’t want to go to university, I wouldn’t be in school now, would I?
– To talk about roads, streets, parks, shop and restaurants when the name is given:
Boots is a famous pharmacy franchise in the UK.
I’d love to have lunch today in McDonald’s.
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