A, An, it The

Learn the rules and study the e examples.

Articles

Articles are words which go before nouns and their function is to show if a noun is either specific or general. Let’s study the different types of articles:

The Definite Article: ‘The’

‘The’ is the definite article and it is used to refer to a specific noun. It can be used with singular, plural, and uncountable nouns. Examples:

  • Please use the correct form to submit theapplication. (singular)
  • The final results will be released in November. (plural)
  • Fish breathe the oxygen in the water. (uncountable)

‘The’ can also be used in these cases:

  • When there is only one thing of something: e.g. The sun is very bright
  • When something has been mentioned before: e.g. I saw a mouse. The mouse was huge.
  • With the names of seas, oceans, rivers and countries with a plural noun: e.g. TheMississippi River is in the United States.
  • In noun + of + noun phrases: e.g. The south of France is beautiful.
  • In superlatives: e.g. The tallest building in the world is over 800 metres tall.

Do not use ‘the’ with the following:

  • Names of most cities, countries or continents: Sydney, India (not the Sydney, or the India)
  • Days of the weeks and months: On Monday, In March (not on the Monday, in the March)
  • Sports: I play soccer, (not I play the soccer)

Indefinite Articles: ‘A/An’

This type of article uses the forms ‘a’ or ‘an’ and it is used with singular countable nouns denoting a general idea. ‘A/an’ can be used:

  • The first time the noun is mentioned: e.g. I saw a mouse. The mouse was huge.
  • With jobs: e.g. He is an architect, She works as a teacher.

Consider the following when using indefinite articles:

  • Use ‘a’ if the word begins with a consonant (e.g. a house, a long movie). Exception: if the consonant is unpronounced, use ‘an’ instead (e.g. an honest person).
  • Use ‘an’ if the word starts with a vowel (e.g. an umbrella, an expensive car). Exception: if the vowel is pronounced with a consonant sound, use ‘a’ (e.g. a university, a useful tip).
  • Do not use ‘a’ or ‘an’ with uncountable nouns: e.g. I want a water. In these cases, use ‘some’ or include a countable noun: I want somewater. / I want a glass of water.

The Zero Article

As its name suggests, this is when an article is not used before a noun. This occurs when referring to nouns with a general or abstract meaning, and can be used with plural and uncountable nouns.

  • Elephants in Africa are under threat. (general: all elephants in Africa)
  • Oil and water don’t mix.

The zero article can be used when referring to:

  • Languages: I speak French (not the French)
  • Places, such as Wall Street, Macquarie University, JFK Airport, Bangkok, England.
  • Academic subjects: My favourite subject is biology (not the biology)
  • Meals: We need to have breakfast (not the breakfast

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