building blocksArticles — Fine-tuning

There are three articles in English — a/an, the and zero — and we use each one in different ways. For each article, study the table of uses and examples, then test yourself by looking away and remembering as many as you can, and an example of each. How many can you remember?

A / An

When we use it Example
Jobs He's a doctor.
Quantities a litre of milk
a lot of money
a few birds
a couple of books
a pair of pants
a hundred dollars
once a day


When we use it Example
When there's only one of them,
and we both know which one.
Answer the phone.

Explanation: There's only one phone and it's ringing now,
so we both know which one we're talking about.

Other examples:
the sun
the moon
the government
the Queen
Rivers The Amazon River's in Brazil.
Hotels The Empress Hotel is downtown.
Newspapers The New York Times is well-known.
Oceans the Atlantic Ocean
Superlatives He's the most intelligent guy I know.

Zero Article

When we use it Example
Certain locations He left for school. (Not “for the school”)
I'm going to work now. (Not “to the work”)
Let's stay at home tonight. (Not “at the home”)
She's in bed. (Not “in the bed”)
Certain types of transport I went by car. (Not “by the car”)
We can get there by foot. (Not “by the foot”)
Countries I study in Canada.
Mountains Mount Fuji is really beautiful.
Cities She was born in Rome.
Street names Government Street is full of tourists.
Meals What did you have for breakfast?
Languages I speak Dutch too.

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