There are two types of articles indefinite 'a' and 'an' or definite 'the'. You also need to know when not to use an article.
The bad news is that their proper use is complex, especially when you get into the advanced use of English. Quite often you have to work it out by what sounds right, which can be frustrating for a learner.
Indefinite articles - a and an (determiners)A and an are the indefinite articles. They refer to something not specifically known to the person you are communicating with.
A and an are used before nouns that introduce something or someone you have not mentioned before:-
|For example:||"I saw an elephant this morning."
"I ate a banana for lunch."
|For example:||"I am an English teacher."
"I am a builder."
|You use a when the noun you are referring to begins
with a consonant (b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t,
v, w, x, y or z), for example, "a city", "a factory", and "a hotel".
You use an when the noun you are referring to begins with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u)
Pronunciation changes this rule. It's the sound that matters, not the spelling.
If the next word begins with a consonant sound when we say it, for example, "university" then we use a. If the next word begins with a vowel sound when we say it, for example "hour" then we use an.
We say "university" with a "y" sound at the beginning as though it were spelt "youniversity".
So, "a university" IS correct.
We say "hour" with a silent h as though it were spelt "our".
So, "an hour" IS correct.
(Lots of people get this wrong - including native speakers.)
Definite Article - the (determiners)There are two ways to pronounce "the". One "thuh" and the other "thee". To learn when we use them see the pronunciation files: How to pronounce "the".
Strong pronunciation Weak pronunciation
You use the when you know that the listener knows or can work out what particular person/thing you are talking about.
|For example:||"The apple
you ate was rotten."
"Did you lock the car?"
|For example:||"She's got two children; a girl and a boy. The girl's eight and the boy's fourteen."|
|For example:||the North Pole, the equator|
|For example:||the Nile, the Pacific, the English channel|
|For example:||the rain, the sun, the wind, the world, the earth, the White House etc..|
|For example:||"I could hear the wind."
/ "There's a cold wind
"What are your plans for the future?" / "She has a promising future ahead of her."
|For example:||"Harry's Bar is the place to go."
"You don't mean you met the Tony Blair, do you?"
|For example:||"The books are expensive."
= (Not all books are expensive, just the ones I'm talking about.)
"Books are expensive." = (All books are expensive.)
|Inflation is rising.
People are worried about rising crime. (Note! People generally, so no article)
|For example:||My son plays football.
Tennis is expensive.
|For example:||Information is important to any organisation.
Coffee is bad for you.
|For example:||No article - Italy, Mexico, Bolivia, England |
Use the - the UK (United Kingdom), the USA (United States of America), the Irish Republic
Multiple areas! the Netherlands, the Philippines, the British Isles