A, An, The

Definite and indefinite articles in English

Uses of A An The

A, An and the are articles in English. A and An are indefinite articles and are used when referring to something the first time. The is the definite article and is used to refer to specific objects. Read this article to learn specific rules and examples of both types of articles.

Read the following description:

I am from Seattle, Washington. Seattle is a city in the United States. It is near the border of Canada in the northwest corner of the USA.

I live in a town called Olympia which is on the Puget Sound. I live in a house in a street in the countryside. The street is called "Bear Street" and the house is old - more than 100 years old! I am an English teacher at a school in the center of the town. I like books and taking photographs. I usually have lunch at school. I usually go home by car. We have all kinds of food in Olympia. I like Italian food very much. Sometimes, I go to an Italian restaurant in Seattle. The restaurant is called "Luigi's". Italian food is great!

Here are the rules for when to use "A, An or The":

  • a = indefinite article (not a specific object, one of a number of the same objects) with consonants
    She has a dog.
    I work in a factory.
  • an = indefinite article (not a specific object, one of a number of the same objects) with vowels (a,e,i,o,u)
    Can I have an apple?
    She is an English teacher.
  • the = definite article (a specific object that both the person speaking and the listener know)
    The car over there is fast.
    The teacher is very good, isn't he?
  • The first time you speak of something use "a or an", the next time you repeat that object use "the".
    I live in a house. The house is quite old and has four bedrooms.
    I ate in a Chinese restaurant. The restaurant was very good.
  • DO NOT use an article with countries, states, counties or provinces, lakes and mountains except when the country is a collection of states such as "The United States".
    He lives in Washington near Mount Rainier.
    They live in northern British Columbia.
  • Use an article with bodies of water, oceans, and seas -
    My country borders on the Pacific Ocean
  • DO NOT use an article when you are speaking about things in general
    I like Russian tea.
    She likes reading books.
  • DO NOT use an article when you are speaking about meals, places, and transport
    He has breakfast at home.
    I go to university.
    He comes to work by taxi.

Check your knowledge of 'a', 'an' or 'the' with this definite and indefinite article review quiz.

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "A, An, The." ThoughtCo, Apr. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/a-an-the-1212211. Beare, Kenneth. (2017, April 4). A, An, The. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-an-the-1212211 Beare, Kenneth. "A, An, The." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-an-the-1212211 (accessed January 23, 2018).