Articles: a, an, the. Rules, examples, test

A/an, the, no article. How to use correctly

A/an, the, no article. How to use correctly

Using articles can be a real challenge for those learning English. These small words – “a”, “an”, and “the” – can have great significance in properly expressing your thoughts. Do you know when to use them? An article is a special linguistic unit that belongs to the function words and is used together with nouns to indicate their definiteness or indefiniteness. Its usage helps clarify whether you’re referring to something specific or something general. An article can be: indefinite (a/an), definite (the), or zero. Let’s explore them and the rules for their usage in our article. After familiarizing yourself with the rules, be sure to test your knowledge to reinforce the material. Our tests will help you check your understanding and improve your level of knowledge.

Indefinite articles “a” and “an” in English: Basic usage rule, grammar

The indefinite articles “a” and “an” are used before singular nouns when we’re talking about something non-specific or when mentioning an object or person for the first time. They help us indicate that the object or person is just one of many possible ones.

  • a” is used before words that begin with a consonant sound.
  • an” is used before words that begin with a vowel sound.

Examples of using the indefinite articles “a” and “an”:

  • “I need a pencil.” (Any pencil, not a specific one.)
  • “She found an apple in the fridge.” (One of many, not a specific apple.)

It’s important to remember that the choice between “a” and “an” depends on the sound the following word starts with, not its spelling. For example, the word “hour” starts with a vowel sound, despite starting with the letter “h”, so we say “an hour”.

Here are the main rules for using the indefinite articles “a” and “an” in English:

  • Before nouns starting with a consonant sound: use “a”.
    • Example: “a dog”, “a book”, “a car”.
  • Before nouns starting with a vowel sound: use “an”.
    • Example: “an apple”, “an elephant”, “an hour”.
  • When talking about professions:
    • Example: “She is a doctor”, “He is an artist”.
  • When introducing a new object or person:
    • Example: “I saw a movie last night”, “They adopted an orphan”.
  • When using a noun in a general sense:
    • Example: “A child needs love”, “An education is essential for success”.
  • Before expressions of quantity:
    • Example: “a few”, “a little”, “an ounce”.
  • When the exact identifier of the noun is unknown to the listener:
    • Example: “I need a pen” (the listener doesn’t know which specific pen you’re referring to).

The definite article “the” in English: Basic usage rules, grammar

The article “the” in English is called the definite article and is used to refer to a specific noun that has already been mentioned or is known in the context of the conversation. Let’s look at some cases where “the” is used:

  • When referring to something unique or one of a kind:
    • Example: “The sun rises in the east.”
  • Before nouns that were mentioned previously:
    • Example: “I saw a cat. The cat was black.”
  • When the noun is known to the listener:
    • Example: “Pass me the salt, please.”
  • Before nouns that are the only ones of their kind or when their identity is obvious:
    • Example: “The President will speak tonight.”
  • Before nouns referring to a group or class of objects:
    • Example: “The whale is an endangered species.”
  • Before nouns used with ordinal numbers:
    • Example: “The first chapter was interesting.”
  • Before nouns used with superlative adjectives:
    • Example: “She is the best student in the class.”
  • Before names of geographical features such as rivers, oceans, mountains, and groups of islands:
    • Example: “The Nile is the longest river in Africa.”
  • Before names of newspapers, ships, organizations, landmarks, and famous buildings:
    • Example: “The Titanic sank in 1912.”

The Zero article in English: Basic usage rules, grammar

The zero article, or no article, in English is used when a noun or noun phrase appears without an article. This means that there is no “a/an” or “the” before the noun. The zero article is often used in the following cases:

  • With plural and uncountable nouns when referring to a general meaning (e.g. cars, people, life, water).
  • With abstract nouns (e.g. education, happiness, music).
  • With proper names (e.g. Mary, Jupiter, Oxford Street).
  • With names of languages (e.g. English).
  • With names of school/university subjects (e.g. History, Law).
  • With names of days of the week and months (e.g. Monday, November).
  • In sports and game names (e.g. football, chess).
  • When using names of meals (e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner).
  • In phrases indicating location or means of transportation (e.g. in bed, by car).

Let’s look at some examples with the zero article:

  • “Cars can be dangerous.”
  • “Education is important.”
  • “I go to school by bus.”

What to expect from the tests?

Our tests cover various aspects of article usage, including choosing between “a” and “an”, determining when to use “the”, and distinguishing between using an article and its absence. Each task is carefully designed to test your knowledge and skills in this challenging area of grammar.

How It works and why It’s important

Taking the tests is very straightforward. Simply select the correct answer from the given options and see how you perform. After completing the tests, you’ll receive an overall score. Using articles correctly is an important part of learning English. It will help you speak and write more grammatically correctly. The skills gained from taking these tests will be useful for both learning and real-world practice of communicating in English.

Exercises – Articles in English

The exercises provided allow you to practice using articles appropriately in English sentences and contexts. By completing them, you can reinforce your understanding of when to use “a/an”, “the”, or no article at all. The exercises cover a range of situations and noun types to ensure comprehensive practice. Press the “start” button to start practicing.

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Practice. A/an, the, no article. How to use correctly

I was at _____ home all day yesterday.

How often do you eat _____ chocolate?

This table is made of _____ glass.

My friend lives in _____ same street as me.

They don’t like _____ chocolate.

I work in _____ company that makes _____ carpets.

I never drink _____ coffee.

We need to buy _____ new sofa for the living room.

Have you ever been to _____ United States?

She's studying to become _____ nurse.

I’d like _____ glass of milk, please.

Does he like _____ cake?

Would you like _____ coffee or tea?

Let’s have _____ ice-cream.

A: How much are the driving lessons?

B: Fifteen pounds _____ hour.

Can you lend me _____ pencil? Mine broke.

Please have _____ cake.

Ankara is _____ capital of Turkey.

My favorite subject is _____ history, but I’m not very good at _____ math.

I eat _____ apple every day.

This morning _____ bus was late.

Your score is

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Even more tips on using articles in English: How to use articles correctly in English?

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