By: Teacher Scarlett
Which article should you use?
I want to buy a book
I want to buy the book
Answer:You can use any depending on what you want to mean.
Article usage can sometimes be very confusing to English learners. Learn the basic rules before going into each type.
1.Check the type of nouns:
- Don’t use determiners with proper nouns
Don’t Say: T
he Nicole went downtown to meet her friend
Say: Nicole went downtown to meet her friend.
Countable Singular nouns
- Determiners are used for singular nouns
Don’t Say: Plate fell from the kitchen cupboard.
Say: A plate fell from the kitchen cupboard.
You can also say: The plate fell from the kitchen cupboard.
- The only determiner for plural nouns is “the”
Don’t Say: A local bags are on sale.
Say: Local bags are on sale.
You can also say: The local bags are on sale.
- The only determiner for mass nouns is “the”
Don’t Say: I need a butter for my toast
Say: I need butter for my toast
You can also say: I need the butter for my toast.
“A/ an”, and “the” are articles used in English to refer to or indicate a noun. “A/an” are called indefinite articles whereas ‘the’ is known as the definite article. The difference between these articles is that “the” refers to specific or particular nouns while “a/an” is used to indicate non-specific or non-particular nouns.
If I say:“ I want to buy a book “
-Meaning: This could mean any book
But if I say: “ I want to buy the book ”
-Meaning: -It means I want to buy a specific book.
3. More Tips
Here are some helpful tips for you to better understand which articles to use:
|A/ An||Talking about something general |
Talking about any one thing
|A car was parked outside. |
I bought a jacket.
She gave him a present.
I have a dog.
She is eating a banana.
|The||Talking about something specific that all the speakers know about when it is clear which thing or person we mean||The jacket was cheap. |
Tom is in the kitchen.
Could you shut the door, please?
I cleaned the bathroom this morning.
The sun is hot today.
I’d like to speak to the manager, please.
Another way to determine which article to use is through listening to the sound the word begins with.
|A AN||Use “a” if the word begins with a consonant sound.|
Use “an” if the word begins with a vowel sound
|I have a dog. |
She wants to ride a horse.
I have an apple.
I need an umbrella
4.However, there are some exceptions.
“I am a university student”
- The article “a” is used before the word “university” because it begins with /j/ (the y sound)
“It’s an honor to meet you”
- The word ‘honor’ begins with /ɑ/ so you should use ‘an’ before it.
It is important that you listen to the sound, and not only look at the letter.