Use a, an and the - Orchids The International School
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Concept: Use a, an and the


  • Articles are words that are used before nouns.
  • The three articles used in English are ‘a’, ‘an’, and ‘the’.
  • They show the number of singular nouns (a, an) and also specify which noun is being described (the).
  • Example:

  • The main function of an article is to specify if we are denoting something general or specific.

Types of Articles


Usage of Indefinite Articles

  1. The indefinite article ("a" or "an") is used with singular countable noun that is specific or unknown.
  2. Example:

    1. Would you buy me a pen from that shop? (‘a’ is used before a consonant)
    2. I want to buy an umbrella. (‘an’ is used before a vowel)

    In the above example, it cannot be identified which pen or umbrella the speaker is talking about, it could be any type irrespective of color, brand or price, or quality. So an indefinite article ‘a’ or ‘an’ is used.

  3. The article ‘a’ is used before singular nouns that start with a consonant sound.For instance,a boy, a table.
  4. The article ‘an’ is used before singular nouns that start with a vowel sound. For instance, an apple, an umbrella.
  5. The articles ‘a’ or ‘an’ is used when a singular countable noun is mentioned for the first time.

Usage of the Definite Article

  1. The definite article ‘the’ is used when the reader knows what specific noun the speaker talks about.
  2. It is used before a singular or plural noun.
  3. The article is also used before the name of oceans and planets.
  4. Example:

    The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world.

Common Mistakes

  1. Using the wrong article with job titles.


    • I am an architect.
    • I am a architect.

    You must use an article if you are talking about your job. If there is only one job in a company or a particular person handling the situation, use the definite article, ‘the’.



    “Today, I will be the pilot for this flight.” However, when talking about a profession in general, then it changes to “I am a pilot”.

  2. If there is an adverb or an adjective before the noun, you must use an article before the adjective of a singular count noun.


    • She's a busy woman.
    • She's busy woman.
  3. 3. For most public places, a definite article, ‘the’ must be used even if there is more than one.


    • I'm going to the library.
    • I'm going to library.
    • He's at the grocery store.
    • He's at grocery store.
  4. Do not use the definite article for plural countable nouns and uncountable nouns. The indefinite article can be used for regular singular count nouns. However, it is common to use the plural form.


    • I like grapes
    • I like the grapes.
  5. It is a must to use the definite article ‘the’ followed by a superlative adjective.


    • She is the best player in the team.
    • She is best player in the team.
    • This is the most wonderful cake I have ever had.
    • This is most wonderful cake I have ever had.
  6. Don’t use articles prior to geographical nouns. Never use articles while describing a particular lake, country, city, state, mountain, street, or even continent.


    • Our flight to Kolkata was delayed
    • Our flight to the Kolkata was delayed.


  1. Usually, with geographical nouns, articles are not used. However, the article ‘the’ is used with mountain ranges, for countries whose names are plural, and with countries whose names have words like kingdom, states, or republic.


With Mountain ranges

  • Have you ever been to the Himalayas?
  • Have you ever been to Himalayas?

With countries that have plural names

  • Have you ever visited the Bahamas?
  • Have you ever visited the Bahamas

With countries that have kingdoms, states, or republic in their names

  • My aunt lives in the United Kingdom
  • My aunt lives in United Kingdom.
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