Using Articles

The articles a/an (the indefinite article) and the (the definite article) belong to a group of words called determiners. They normally go at the beginning of noun phrases.

  • Alice is financial advisor.
  • She is working for an insurance company.
  • I have been to the doctor.
  • Can I talk to the manager?

What are articles used for?

Articles are used to show whether we are talking about things that are known both to the speaker and to the listener, or that are not known to them both. Articles can also show whether we are talking about things in general or particular things.

Points to be noted

A singular countable noun normally has an article or other determiner (my, this, her, some etc.) with it. We can say dog, my dog, that dog or every dog, but not just dog.

  • I saw a child in the store.
  • They have a house in the city.
  • Can I use your car?
  • He is my friend.
  • Who is that boy in the red shirt?

Plural and uncountable nouns can be used with or without an article or other determiner.

  • Children usually rush about.
  • Milk is rich in nutrients.
  • Is there any milk in the bottle?
  • Water is precious.
  • Time is money.

Articles are often dropped in double expressions, particularly with prepositions. Examples are:

With knife and fork (NOT With a knife and a fork) (NOT With a knife and fork)
Husband and wife (NOT a husband and a wife)
From top to bottom (NOT From the top to the bottom)
Inch by inch
On land and sea

Note that articles are not usually dropped when singular nouns follow prepositions.

You can’t get there without a car. (NOT You can’t get there without car.)

Both and all

The definite article the is often dropped after both.

Both children are good at singing.
OR Both the children are good at singing.

And we often leave out the between all and a number.

You can take all the three shirts.
OR You can take all three shirts.

Kind of

The article a/an is usually dropped after kind of, sort of, type of and similar expressions.

What kind of person is she? (NOT What kind of a person is she?)
What sort of bird is that?

Exclamations

We use a/an with singular countable nouns in exclamations after what.

What a pretty girl! (NOT What pretty girl!)
What a sweet song!

Note that a/an cannot be used with uncountable nouns.

What nonsense! (NOT What a nonsense!)

Place names

Articles are used with the names of:

Seas (the Pacific, the Atlantic)
Mountains (the Alps, the Himalayas)
Island groups (the West Indies)
Rivers (the Nile, the Amazon, the Thames)
Deserts (the Sahara, the Atacama)

We usually use no article with the names of continents, countries, states, departments etc. Examples are: Asia, India, France, Texas, Beijing etc.

Exceptions

We say: the People’s Republic of China, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, the Hague

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Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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