Articles are special little words that we use before nouns to give more information about them.
They help us understand if we are talking about something specific or something in a general way.
There are three main articles:
a, an, the, and sometimes we don’t use any article at all, which we call the zero article.
A & An
A and An (indefinite articles) We use “a” or “an” when we talk about a singular noun in a general or non-specific way.
“A” before words that start with a consonant sound
- I saw a dog in the park.
(dog starts with a consonant sound “d”)
“An” before words that start with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) or a vowel sound.
- She has an apple.
(apple starts with the vowel “a”)
The (definite article)
For something specific or when there is only one of something
- You shouldn’t look directly into the sun.
There is only one sun
For something that both the speaker and the listener know or when it is clear which thing we are talking about
- Pass me the textbook.
This refers to a specific book that the listener can see.
For unique things, like specific oceans, countries, or landmarks
- The Great Wall of China is famous.
This refers to the specific landmark.
For something that has been mentioned before
- I have a dog. The dog is brown.
Referring to the specific dog mentioned earlier.
We don’t use an article when we talk about plural things in a general or non-specific way.
- Dogs are loyal animals.
This refers to dogs in general, not any specific group of dogs.
- Babies cry when they are hungry.
This refers to babies in general, not any specific babies.
We don’t use an article with uncountable nouns, which are things we can’t count individually.
- Water is important for our bodies.
Water is an uncountable noun and in this case is being talked about generally.
We don’t use an article with proper nouns such as the names of people, cities, or countries (unless there is an article in the name of the country like The United States, or The United Kingdom).
- She lives in Dubai.
Dubai is the name of a city, so we do not need an article before it.
In summary, “a” or “an” are used for something non-specific, “the” is used for something specific or known, and sometimes we don’t need any article at all.