How to Use Definite and Indefinite Articles: A, An, The

Text on a blackboard: Using A, An, and The. Using them indicates two things: whether a word is singular or plural, and whether a noun is definite or indefinite.
ThoughtCo.

The definite and indefinite articles "a," "an," and "the" are basic building blocks of the English language. They provide specificity, both in writing and in conversation, by indicating which object or objects are being referenced. In other words, definite and indefinite articles let the listener know who or what you're talking about. Using them indicates two things: whether a word is singular or plural, and whether a noun is definite or indefinite. Beyond that, there are just a few important rules to remember.

Using Definite and Indefinite Articles

"A", "an", and "the" can all be used with nouns and noun phrases. "A" and "an" are used with countable nouns, which may be singular or plural and can be counted, such as "egg" or "women." However, you would not use these definite articles with an uncountable noun, such as "flour" or "money" which do not have plural forms and refer to an indistinct quantity. The definite article "the" can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns, as well as with other noun types in English.

Other rules for using these articles include:

Use the indefinite article "a" when referring to a single, nonspecific object that begins with a consonant.She has a dog.
I work in a factory.
Use the indefinite article "an" when referring to a single, nonspecific object that begins with a vowel.‚ÄčCan I have an apple?
She is an English teacher.
Use the definite article "the" when referring to a specific object that both the person speaking and the listener are familiar with.The car over there is fast.
The teacher is very good, isn't he?
The first time you reference something with an indefinite article, use a definite article when you repeat that object.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 Mt. Rainier.
They live in northern British Columbia.
Use an article with bodies of water, oceans, and seasMy country borders on the Pacific Ocean
Do not use an article when you are speaking about things in general. Make sure to use the plural form of countable objects.I like Russian tea.
She enjoys reading books.
Do not use an article when you are speaking about meals, places, and transportHe has breakfast at home.
I go to college.
He comes to work by taxi.
Use the definite article in American English (not British) when you are referring to a hospital.He needs to go to the hospital.


A, An, and The Quiz

Complete the following sentences using "a," "an," and "the," or choose "no article."

1. I live in _____ house in _____ city in _____ United States.

2. Jennifer has _______ friend who knows ______ famous singer over there.

3. I'd like _____ new TV. Let's go shopping!

4. Peter enjoys drinking _______ Italian wine and eating _______ French food.

5. My aunt told me that she once climbed _____ Mt. Rainer in _____ Washington State.

6. I work as _____ English teacher in Portland, Ore.

7. Do you have ______ keys to ______ car? (Wife asking husband)

8. I go to work by _______ bus.

9. _____ director of _____ company isn't very friendly, is he? (one colleague speaking to another)

10. She bought ______ book in a shop. ______ book was about _______ man who lived in Portugal.

How to Use Definite and Indefinite Articles: A, An, The

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How to Use Definite and Indefinite Articles: A, An, The

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How to Use Definite and Indefinite Articles: A, An, The

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