Thursday, 24 October 2013

the, a, and an

Definite article: the

The is the definite article. It is used before a noun to refer to a specific one. 

  • Can you please hand me the green towel? (I only want the green towel.)
  • I want the cherry pie. (I want a specific pie.)
  • She wants the apple. (I want the specific apple you are holding.)
  • I like the elephants at the zoo. (I like those elephants at that zoo.)

Indefinite articles: a/an

and an are indefinite articles. They are used before nouns to refer to something in general. 

A is used before words that start with a consonant
An is used before words that start with a vowel.

  • Can you please hand me towel? (It doesn't matter which towel.)
  • I want pie. (I don't care what type of pie.)
  • She wants an apple(She doesn't care which apple.)
  • I like an elephant at a zoo. (I don't care which zoo. I am not talking about a specific elephant.)

So how do you know when to use each one?

1) Use A or An when
  • you mention something for the first time.

    • I need a volunteer.
    • We have a winner!
    • Do you have an eraser?
  • you want to say something belongs to a certain group or category.

    • That is a horse.
    • Brownie is a dog.
    • That is an electric car.
  • you want to say that someone belongs to a certain group.

    • Stacy is a girl.
    • He is student at that high school.
    • Mr. Jones is an electrician.
  • you want to say that something is "that kind of thing."

    • It is a pretty flower.
    • The table is a strong table.
    • It was an early morning.
  • you want to say that someone is "that kind of person."

    • He is a smart teacher.
    • She is an attractive woman.
    • You are a special friend.

2) Use the when
  • you talk about a specific thing.

    • Did you find the keys to my car?
    • I bought the red bicycle at the bicycle store.
    • The sound I heard was loud!
  • it is clear which thing you are talking about.

    • She brought the cake!
    • I love the rain.
    • It was the dog!
  • there is only one such thing.

    • The moon is bright tonight.
    • I love to visit the Atlantic ocean.
    • She is the English teacher.

3) Do not use an article when
  • you talk about something general.

    • Incorrect: The monkeys are the funny animals!
    • Correct: Monkeys are funny animals!
    • Incorrect: Learning the English can be difficult.
    • Correct: Learning English can be difficult.
    • Incorrect: The dogs are a man's best friend.
    • Correct: Dogs are man's best friend.
  • you talk about cities, countries, streets, people, etc.

    • Incorrect: She moved from the Kansas.
    • Correct: She moved from Kansas.
    • Incorrect: I visited the Mrs. Smith.
    • Correct: I visited Mrs. Smith.
    • Incorrect: We live on the Main Street.
    • Correct: We live on Main Street.

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