A/An Or The | What To Use?

The indefinite article a/an is used to talk about one particular person or thing when the listener does not know which one is meant.

  • I saw a child in the toy store.
  • She married an old man.
  • A girl answered the phone.

The definite article is used when the listener knows which particular person or thing is meant.

  • The child was crying. (You know which child – the one I met in the toy store.)
  • I went to the doctor yesterday.
  • The girl who answered the phone was polite. (You know which girl – the one who answered the phone.)

The first time you speak of something/somebody use a/an, the next time you repeat the same noun use the.

To talk about things in general, we normally use a singular countable noun with a/an.

  • A spider has eight legs.
  • An apple is red.

Note that we can also use a plural noun with no article to make a general statement.

  • Children need love.
  • Spiders have eight legs.
  • Teachers must have patience.
  • Apples are red.
  • Computers are expensive.

Sometimes we use a singular noun with the to make general statements. This is particularly common before the names of instruments and inventions.

  • Who invented the computer?
  • I would like to learn the violin.


Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets. You may also want to check out my other blogs IELTS Practice and NCERT Guides

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