articles a/an (the indefinite article) and the (the definite
article) belong to a group of words called determiners. They normally go at the
beginning of noun phrases.

Alice is a financial advisor. 
She is working for an insurance company.
I have been to the doctor.
Can I talk to the manager?

What are
articles used for?
are used to show whether we are talking about things that are known both to the
speaker and to the listener or that are not known to them both. Articles can
also show whether we are talking about things in general or particular things.
Points to
be noted
A singular countable
noun normally has an article or other
determiner (my, this, her, some etc.) with it. We can say a dog, my dog,
that dog or every dog, but not just dog.

I saw a child in the
They have a house in
the city.
Can I use your car?
He is my friend. 
Who is that boy in
the red shirt?

and uncountable nouns can be used with or without an article or other

Children usually rush about.
Milk is rich in nutrients.
Is there any milk in
the bottle?
Water is precious. 
Time is money.

The Definite Article
The is called the definite article because it is used to refer to a
particular person or thing.

Call the man waiting
Revenge is the main theme
of this play.

To talk
about a person/thing already mentioned
When a person/thing has been mentioned
earlier, the definite article is used in later references to that particular

I saw a beggar near
the bus stop; the fellow came to me with outstretched hands.

To talk
about a person/thing known to the listener
We use the definite article (the) before a noun when we expect the
listener/reader to know which particular person(s) or thing(s) we are talking

Can I talk to the
(The listener knows which person is meant.)
I have been to the
(Which doctor? My doctor.) 
The book you want is out of print.
(Which book? The one you want.)
The child was crying. (Which child?
The one I met in the store.)
Let us go to the park. (Which
park? The one in the town.)

To talk
about unique things or events
We use the to talk about unique things
or events.

The French Revolution began in 1789. (Unique:
because there has been only one French revolution.)
The Nile is the longest river in the

Most nouns that represent things that are the
only ones of their kind also take the before them.
Examples are: the sun, the moon, the earth,
the city, the Nile, the country, the sea, the weather etc.
This use of the is possible even when
we are talking about somebody/something that the listener knows nothing about?

You don’t know the
do you? (The use of the makes it clear that there is
only one Hilton family in the speaker’s social environment.)

expressions referring to our physical environment
is used in a number of expressions referring to our physical environment.
Examples are: the town, the weather, the
rain, the wind, the country, the sunshine, the sea, the city etc.

I prefer the country to
the city. 
The earth is the only planet that
supports life.

adjectives referring to a particular class of people
We use the before certain adjectives referring to a
particular class of people.
Examples are: the blind, the dead, the poor,
the disabled etc.

The rich are not always happy.
The accused was sent on bail. 
The educated should teach the illiterate.

Superlative adjectives take the before them.

She is the eldest member
in the family.
The Nile is the longest river
in the world.

singular nouns that represent a whole class
We use the before a singular noun when it is
used to represent the whole class of things to which it belongs.

The lotus is a lovely flower.
Can the leopard change
its spots? 
The camel is the ship of the desert.

The indefinite article
A singular countable
noun always has an article or another
determiner with it.
The indefinite article a/an is used to
talk about one particular person or thing when the listener does not know which
one is meant, or when it does not matter which one.

She married an old man.
They have a big house in
the city.
You had better consult a

I saw a hawker
selling his wares on the street. 
A man came and knocked at the

A/an is also used to talk about any one member of a class.

A teacher must have patience. (=any
A spider has eight legs. (=any
A dog is faithful to its master.
A parrot can repeat what you say.

Cases where the indefinite article should not be used
plural and uncountable nouns
The indefinite article cannot used before
plural and uncountable nouns.

Apples are red.
Computers are expensive. 
Time is money.

We cannot use the indefinite article with
possessives. We use double possessives instead.

He is a friend of mine. (NOT
He is a my friend.)

adjectives without nouns
We cannot use the indefinite article with an
adjective alone (without a noun).

She is a beautiful girl.
She is beautiful. (NOT
She is a beautiful.)

Cases where articles should not be used
With uncountable nouns
Articles are not used with uncountable nouns when we make general statements.

I love coffee. (NOT
a coffee OR the coffee)
Milk is rich in nutrients. (NOT
The milk OR a milk)
We can’t do without water.
(NOT The water OR a water)
She likes reading books. (NOT…the
reading books OR a reading books)

With the
names of countries
We do not use articles with the names of

Japan is a developed nation. (NOT
The Japan)
I have been to England. (NOT…to
the England) 
India is a secular republic. (NOT
The India)
He has just returned from South
(NOT …the South Africa)

But we use ‘the’ if the name of the
country or organization specifically states that it is a collection of states.
(For example, The United States, The United Arab Emirates, The United Nations

He is leaving for the
United States
The United Nations is an international
organization of countries created to promote world peace and cooperation.

With the
names of languages
We do not use articles with the names of

Hindi is the national language of
It is not easy to learn French.

English is spoken in many parts of
the world.

With the
names of meals
We do not use articles with the names of meals.

We have lunch at
midday. (NOT…the lunch)
We have dinner in the
evening. (NOT…the dinner) 
Breakfast is the first meal of the
day. (NOT…the breakfast)

proper nouns
We do not use articles with proper nouns (the
names of people, places etc.)

Alice is an architect. (NOT
The Alice or a Alice)
Mary is my friend. (NOT
The Mary) 
Delhi is the capital of India.

But we use ‘the’ with plural names.

We are having dinner with the

The Sharmas are very kind.

titles and names
We do not use articles with titles and names.

Princess Diana was killed in a car
President Kennedy was assassinated.

But we say, the queen of England, the President
of USA
With years
We do not use articles before years.

India won freedom in 1947.
(NOT…in the 1947)
I was born in 1979.

possessives and demonstratives
We do not use articles before possessives
(my, your, their etc.) and demonstratives (this, that, these, those).

This is my book. (NOT
This is a my book.)
I like this car. (NOT
I like the this car.)

With days
Articles are not used to talk about the
coming or last day/month.

See you on Friday. (=Coming
We are leaving for the US next
(NOT …the next week.)

But we use articles with the names of days of
the week and months if we are talking about particular days or months.

We met on a rainy Friday.

It was a wet Monday in
She died on the Thursday after
the accident.

What to use – a/an or the?
The indefinite
article a/an is used to talk about one particular person or thing when
the listener does not know which one is meant.

I saw a child in the toy store.
She married an old man. 
A girl answered
the phone.

The definite
article is used when the listener knows which particular person or thing is

The child was
crying. (You know which child – the one I met in the toy store.)
I went to the doctor yesterday. 
The girl who
answered the phone was polite. (You know which girl – the one who answered
the phone.)

The first time
you speak of something/somebody use a/an, the next time you repeat the
same noun use the.
To talk about
things in general, we normally use a singular countable noun with a/an.

A spider has eight
An apple is red.

Note that we
can also use a plural noun with no article to make a general statement.

Children need love. 
Spiders have eight
Teachers must have
Apples are red.
Computers are

Sometimes we
use a singular noun with the to make general statements. This is
particularly common before the names of instruments and inventions.

Who invented the computer?
I would like to learn the violin.

The difference between some/any and no article
Uncountable and plural nouns are often used
either with some/any or with no article. Usually there is no difference
of meaning.

I need (some) writing paper.
Have you got (any) rice?

We use some/any when we are talking
about limited but rather indefinite number or quantities. We use no article
when we are thinking about unlimited numbers or quantities, or not thinking
about numbers/quantities at all.

We have bought some eggs.
(Limited quantity)
Do you like eggs? (No
idea of number)
Is there any milk in
the bottle? (Limited quantity)
Milk has a sweet taste. (No idea
of quantity)
We bought a lot of apples
Apples are red. (General statement)

I would like a little
, please.
We planted some trees
in the garden. (Limited number)
There were trees on
either side of the road. (No idea of number)

Common expressions without articles
In some common
fixed expressions to do with place, time and movement, normally countable nouns
are treated as uncountable, without articles. Examples are:
To/at/from university/college (GB)
To/in/from college (US)
To/at/in/into/from church
To/in/into/out of bed/prison
To/in/into/out of hospital (GB)
To/at/from work
To/at sea
To/in/from town
At/from home
Leave/start/enter school/university/college
By day
At night
By car/bus/bicycle/plane/train/tube/boat
On foot
By radio/phone/letter/mail
With place
nouns, similar expressions with articles may have different meanings.

I met her at college. (When we were students)
I met her at the college. (The college is
just a meeting place.)

In American
English, university and hospital are not used without articles.
Articles: special rules and exceptions
Articles are often dropped in double
expressions, particularly with prepositions. Examples are:
With knife and fork (NOT With a knife and a
fork) (NOT With a knife and fork)
Husband and wife (NOT a husband and a wife)
From top to bottom (NOT From the top to the bottom)
Inch by inch
On land and sea
Note that articles are not usually dropped
when singular nouns follow prepositions.
You can’t get there without a car. (NOT You can’t get there
without car.)
Both and all
The definite article the is often
dropped after both.
Both children are good at singing.
OR Both the children are good at singing.
And we often leave out the between all and a number.
You can take all the three shirts.
OR You can take all three shirts.
Kind of
The article a/an is usually dropped
after kind of, sort of, type of and similar expressions.
What kind of person is she? (NOT What
kind of a person is she?)
What sort of bird is that?
We use a/an with singular countable nouns in exclamations after what.
What a pretty girl! (NOT What pretty girl!)
What a sweet song!
Note that a/an cannot be used with
uncountable nouns.
What nonsense! (NOT What a nonsense!)
Place names
Articles are used with the names of:
Seas (the Pacific, the Atlantic)
Mountains (the Alps, the Himalayas)
Island groups (the West Indies)
Rivers (the Nile, the Amazon, the Thames)
Deserts (the Sahara, the Atacama)
We usually use no article with the names of
continents, countries, states, departments etc. Examples are: Asia, India,
France, Texas, Beijing etc.
We say: the People’s Republic of
China, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands,
the Hague 
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