Articles come in three forms: A, AN and THE.
A and AN mean one and are used with singular countable nouns.
THE can be used with either one or more countable noun, whether they are singular or plural.
The rules are the following. If a word begins with a vowel sound (a e i o u), then we use AN. If the word begins with a consonant, then we use A.
a) An apple, an envelope, an ice cream, an orange, an umbrella.
b) A boy, a house, a mouse, a toy.
If the word begins with a ‘u’, the sound of the first letter of the word could be a consonant or a vowel in English phonetics.
c) I went to a university.
d) I carried an umbrella in case it rained.
The is used to show that we are talking about one specific thing, or many specific things.
e) The person I met yesterday studies at the same university as me.
f) The teachers in our department are real journalists.
We use The with groups of countries or states, islands, oceans, seas, mountain ranges, rivers.
We do not use The with singular countries, singular mountains, continents or lakes.
a) I travelled over the Atlantic to the Caribbean by ship.
b) Then we went to South America to travel down the Amazon by boat.
c) We climbed the Andes to go to Machu Picchu.
d) Finally, we went on a boat on Lake Titicaca.
We tend to use the with public buildings like the bank, the tax office, and the library. We also say we go to the hospital if we are a visitor. However, if we are a patient, we say we are in hospital, without using the. Similarly, we use the for institutions such as university.
e) I went to university.
We do not use an article for plural countable nouns or for uncountable nouns. In these situations, not using an article is often called the zero article.
Complete the sentences with a, an, the or the zero article.
a) I saw ………. man who was dancing in ……….
b) ………. man didn’t care that he was getting wet.
c) Last year I went to ………. dead sea.
d) Have you ever been on ………. island?
e) Would you like to climb ………. Mount Everest?
f) They went to ………. tax office to get more information about their situation.
g) On children’s day, they took flowers and toy to all ………. children in ………. children’s hospital.
h) I believe that ………. knowledge can help you to improve your life.