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How to use Articles

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What's wrong with this sentence?

"Boy played in the park."

The problem is that the noun 'boy' (the subjects) cannot be used without an article. We could say, for example, 'The boy', 'A boy' or 'My neighbour's boy'. Generally, the articles a and the are used with nouns.

When to use The

Use the before singular and plural nouns when the noun is specific.

"The teacher I spoke to at the school was very friendly." - Here we are talking about one specific teacher (the one I spoke to).

When to use A/An

When we are referring to any member of a group we use a/an. It is not important which one we are talking about.

"I want to buy a new car." - There are many types of car. It does not matter yet which type I want.

Compare this sentence with:

"I want to buy the car we looked at yesterday." - We use the here because we are talking about a specific car (the one we looked at).

When NOT to use articles

A and the are not used with...

Plural Nouns

"Boys like soccer." - This sentence is ok because we are talking to boys in general (all boys).

"The Boys in my school like soccer." - This is ok because we are talking about specific boys (the ones in my school).

Uncountable Nouns

"Pollution is a problem." - Pollution is an uncountable noun (a mass noun).

"The pollution in my town is a problem." - This is ok because we are talking about a specific location.

"There is some pollution in my town." - This is ok because some tells us about the amount of pollution.

"There is a pollution in my town." - This is NOT ok because a is only used with countable nouns (a car, a boy) and pollution is uncountable. Water, traffic and snow are other examples of uncountable nouns.

Real Nouns

Don't use articles with real nouns i.e. the names of people or places.

We DO NOT say: "I want to visit the Spain."

Now try this articles quiz:

  • 1 - Where's ___ knife I was just using?

  • 2 - How much ___ snow do you get in winter?

  • 3 - I had ___ fruit for lunch.

  • 4 - I'm thinking about taking __ holiday.

  • 5 - Can you lend me __ pen?

  • 6 - ___ roses in your garden are beautiful.

  • 7 - Make sure you drink plenty of ___ water.

  • 8 - Let's eat out at ___ restaurant tonight. What type shall we go to?

  • 9 - I should buy ___ new pair of shoes soon.