building blocksArticles — a/an, the


This lesson is about the indefinite articles, “a” and “an”, and the definite article, “the”.

a/an = indefinite article that refers any noun
the = definite article that refers to a certain or specific noun

For example:

“Let's see a movie” means any  movie. (indefinite)
“Let's see the movie” means a certain movie. (definite)

“A” or “an”?

An” is used instead of “a” before a vowel sound. For example:

An artist from the local community painted the wonderful mural at Chemainus.

Indefinite Article: A / AN

Explanation Example
A” and “an” are used when it is not clear which thing or person we are talking about. She was talking to a girl at the store. (This is an unknown girl, so a is used.)
A” and “an” can be used only with count nouns. I need a bottle of milk. I need an interesting topic for my speech.

Definite Article: THE

Explanation Example
The” is used when it is clear which thing or person we are talking about. Greg was talking to the girl from New York.
(This a specific girl from New York, so the is used.)

The sun comes up every day.
The” is used when there is only one of a particular thing. London is the capital of England.

We went to the most expensive city in the world.
The + adjective

The is used with some adjectives (without a noun).
For example: the young , the old, the sick
(The meaning is always plural.)
Do you think that the rich should give money to the poor?
The + nationality adjectives

The is used with most nationality words which refer to the people of a specific country.
For example: the Canadians, the Japanese
The Italians are famous for their delicious food.
Certain nouns use the:

names of rivers, oceans and seas: the Mississippi, the Atlantic

points on the globe: the Equator, the South  Pole

geographical areas: the Middle East, the West, as well as deserts, forests, gulfs, and peninsulas
The Atlantic is a huge, deep, dark ocean.

The Middle East is fascinating.

The Gulf of Mexico
is below Texas.

We live near the Saanich Peninsula.

When you are sure that you understand the lesson, you can continue with the exercises.