The Articles

An article is a word combined with a noun to indicate the extent of definiteness (specificity) of the noun. Since an article modifies a noun it is classified into adjective. Yet, not all nouns can be preceded by an article. Mostly, an article comes first of all words of its noun phrase, preceding all other adjectives.

There are two types of articles they are indefinite and definite articles.

A. Indefinite Article

1. a/an

Indefinite articles are the articles which don’t refer to specific noun. Indefinite articles do not state exactly to which person or object we are referring to. When using indefinite articles, it shows that the speaker thinks the listener does not know the identity of the noun.

The first indefinite articles we are going to discuss are a and an. A and an mean one. The difference between a and an is determined by phonetic rules rather than by spelling principle.

A is used before a word starting with a consonant sound, e.g.: a car, a book, a union, a horse, a university, a one-eyed gangster, etc.

You may ask a question that in the examples there are some words start with vowel (union, university, one-eyed gangster) but use a as their article. They use a because those words are initially pronounced like consonant, union /ˈjuːnɪən/, university /ˌjuːnɪˈvɜːsɪti/ and one-eyed gangster /ˌwʌn ˈaɪd ˈɡæŋstə/.
Whilst an is used before a word starting with a vowel sound. Examples: an apple, an umbrella, an axe, an ant, an ostrich, an elevator, an honest man, an hour, etc.

In the examples, the words honest and hour which are started with consonant h use article an because those words are pronounced like vowel, honest /ˈɒnɪst/ and hour /ˈaʊə/.

But you’ll also find some confusing nouns like X-ray, FBI agent, S-shaped curve, UFO, USB key, etc. When you do, you only need to see the first letter pronunciation as discussed above. You know that X-ray is pronounced /ˈeks reɪ/, FBI agent is pronounced / ˌefbɪˈaɪ ˈeɪdʒənt/ and S-shaped curve is pronounced / es-ʃeɪpt kɜːv/. All those words are initiated with vowel sound, so they take an, then they become an X-ray, an FBI agent and an S-shaped curve.

Now let’s see UFO and USB key. UFO is pronounced / ˌju:ˌeˈfəʊ/ and USB key is pronounced /juːesbiː kiː/. Those words are initially pronounced in consonant sound, so they take a, then they become a UFO and a USB key.

The Use of A/An In Sentences

a. Use a/an when you say something for the first time, next time you repeat it use the.


  1. I have a new hat. The hat is yellow.
  2. She is eating an orange. She bought the orange yesterday.

In the examples you can see that when words hat and orange are repeated, they use article the.

b. Use a/an to talk about one’s job.


  1. I’m an English teacher.
  2. She’s an online marketer.

Don’t use a/an:

Don’t use a/an with uncountable nouns. The examples of uncountable nouns are milk, rice, sugar, butter, water, etc. You can’t use a/an with uncountable nouns for you can’t count them.

2. Some as an Indefinite Article

Besides functions as a quantifier, some also can be used as a plural form of a/an. “An orange” constantly means one indefinite orange. Sentence “She needs some oranges” shows more than one orange is needed yet without specifying the quantity.

B. Definite Article

The is called definite article as it refers to specific noun. Both the speaker and the listener know which noun is meant or the speaker thinks the listener knows the identity of the noun since it is clear or familiar or it is common knowledge or because it was mentioned previously. The makes general thing specific. The can be used with any type of noun, plural or singular, countable or uncountable.

The Use of The in Sentences

a. Use the when you talk about a specific person or thing; it is clear which one you refer to or talk about.


  1. He will see the doctor this afternoon.
  2. Take me the pen!
  3. You must visit the place.

In the examples both the speaker and the listener know which doctor, pen and place are talking about.

b. Use the with noun mentioned for the second time and so on.


A girl was planting a flower in a garden. The girl was singing happily while planting the flower. The next days she always came to the garden to see the flower.

In the examples you see that when words girl, flower and garden are mentioned for the first time, they use a as the article. But when they are mentioned for the second time and so on, they use the as the article.

c. Use the with school, university, prison, hospital, church, bed, work and home when you talk about a particular one, and no article when you talk about the idea of them.


  1. She goes to school everyday.
  2. The school I visited yesterday is very clean.
  3. I want to continue my study to university.
  4. We studied at the university for five years.
  5. The man will stay in prison for ten years due to his criminal acts.
  6. The young actor celebrated his 20th birthday in the prison.
  7. I went to bed at 9 last night.
  8. The bed I bought last week is very comfortable.

In the examples, sentences 1, 3, 5 and 7 are about the idea of school, university, prison and bed, not refer to specific ones. Whilst sentences 2, 4, 6 and 8 refer to specific school, university, prison and bed.

d. Use the with oceans, seas, rivers, canals, mountain ranges and geographical points on the globe.


  1. The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean on the Earth.
  2. The Red Sea lies between Africa and Asia.
  3. The Panama Canal is a ship canal which joins the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
  4. The Nile River is the main river in North Africa.
  5. Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps.
  6. Polar bears are at the top of the food chain in the North Pole.
  7. The Equator is an imaginary line on the earth’s surface which devides the earth into the northern and southern hemisphere.

e. Use the with adjective to talk about a group of people (including nationalities).


  1. He’s rich but never gives the poor.
  2. The Indonesians are commonly friendly.
  3. The unemployed demand the opening of new job fields immediately.

f. Use the with plural names of people and places.


  1. The Johns live happily in that big house.
  2. The Virgin Islands form the border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

g. Use the with theaters, cinemas, hotels, pubs and restaurants.


  1. The Hilton was founded by Conrad Hilton.
  2. The Odeon is one of the largest in Europe.
  3. He didn’t come to the Déjà Vu when he visited Toronto last year.
  4. I will stay in The Ritz for five days.

h. Use the with Abbreviations.


1. The UN was founded to replace the League of Nations.
2. The IMF headquarter is in Washington, D.C.

i. Use the with unique things.

  1. The sun is shining brightly now.
  2. She wants to see the moon tonight.
  3. The rain will fall soon.
  4. The wind is blowing gently.
  5. You are the one I love in the world.
  6. The earth goes around the sun.
  7. The White House was designed by Irish-born James Hoban.

j. Use the with musical instruments.


  1. Mom’s playing the piano for me.
  2. She’s learning the guitar.

In the examples the piano and the guitar don’t refer to certain piano and guitar but any.

k. Use the with the name of newspapers.


  1. The Times is a British daily national newspaper published in London.
  2. He’s reading The Jakarta Post.
  3. We subscribe to The Sunday Times.
  4. The Washington Post is the largest newspaper in Washington, D.C.which emphasizes on national politics.

l. Use the with well-known buildings or works of art.


  1. The Great Wall is in China.
  2. I want to visit the Taj Mahal.
  3. The Empire State Building has a roof height of 381 meters.
  4. The Mona Lisa is a portrait painting in oil by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci.

m. Use the with certain countries’ names.

Actually the is not used with most countries, but there are many that do. The countries’ names which take the are those that derive from names of island groups such as The Philippines, The Barbados, The Maldives, The Canary Islands; mountain ranges like The Lebanon; deserts like The Sudan; seas, rivers and geographic regions like The Middle East; or countries whose names include words like kingdom, states, republic or union such as The United States, the United Kingdom; the Kingdom of Nepal, the Soviet Union, the Czech Republic, The People’s Republic of China, The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, The Islamic Republic of Iran, and The Kingdom of Lesotho; or if a country has a plural name like The Netherlands.

C. No Article

1. Use no article with the followings:

a. continents, examples: Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia and America;

b. countries, examples: Italy, Indonesia, Canada, etc.;

c. regions, examples: Vermont, Massachusetts, etc.;

d. cities, examples: New York, Toronto, etc.;

e. towns, examples: Eastwood (a town in England), Wamena (a town in Indonesia);

f. villages, examples: Totsukawa (a village in Japan), Dacitan (a village in China);

g. streets, examples: Lonesome Road, Liquid Loco Street;

h. lakes, examples: Lake Toba, Lake Matano;

i. parks, example: Central Park.

2. Use no article with sports, examples: football, baseball, tennis, badminton, etc.

3. Use no article to talk about things or people in general.


  • Spinach is extremely rich in antioxidants.
  • Chinese people drink a lot of tea.
  • People are worried about rising inflation.
  • Coffee is not good for you.

4. Use no article with single islands.

Examples: Sumatra Island, Kalimantan Island, Hong Kong Island, etc.

5. Use no article with single mountains (not the mountains range).

Examples: Yellow Mountain, Mount Everest, etc.

To see the complete information on kinds of adjectives, just click here!

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