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Articles: A/An and The

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We are going to look the three basic rules about the use of article. There are many different rules some of which we have already presented but these are the main three.

1 – a/an

When we talk about people’s jobs or the things they do we use ‘a/an’
He’s a teacher.
She’s a scientist.
He was a student of mine.


2 – a/an or the with singular countable nouns.

Besides other determiners (my, yours, his etc.) singular, countable nouns always have a/an or the.
We use the indefinite article ‘a/an’ when we talk about something that is not specific or new to a conversation, i.e. not definite:
I’ve just finished reading a great book. – the listener does not know which book.
Would you like a drink? – the speaker is not talking about one type of drink
Do you want to see a film? – no film has been chosen yet


We use the definite article when we talk about something specific or that we know:
Have you seen the book I was reading yesterday? – the speaker and listener know which book.
I’ve just placed the pie in the oven. The speaker and listener know which pie and the whole house only has one oven.
There’s a car blocking the drive. – the drive of the house.

3 – No article

When we talk about general things we usually use plural or uncountable nouns with no article.
Sharks live in the Mediterranean.
Tourists prefer warmer climates for their summer holidays.
Children are influenced by their peers.

However – The children in that school learn Latin. These children not all children in general.

There are many more rules about articles but these three rules will reduce mistakes.

Lesson by Tristan, English teacher at EC Malta English school

  • 1 - Could I borrow ___ car?

  • 2 - She's ___ woman I met yesterday.

  • 3 - I need to buy ___ new phone.

  • 4 - ___ cars are more environmentally friendly than before.

  • 5 - I love listening to ___ music.

  • 6 - My sister is going to buy ___ new car.

  • 7 - You can only find ___ polar bears in the north not in the south.

  • 8 - I would love ___ pizza from that Italian restaurant.