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Structure: ‘a / an / the 2’

Some rules with ‘a / an / the’

There are four basic rules to follow when using articles; ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’.

  1. Don’t use a / an with plurals.
    • a cars / an eggs = INCORRECT
    • a car / an egg = CORRECT
  2. Don’t use ‘the’ to make general statements about things / people.
    • The trees are good for the environment = INCORRECT
    • Trees are good for the environment = CORRECT
  3. Don’t use a / an / the with other words that make something definite or that indicate quantity.
    • Look at the my car! = INCORRECT (my already makes ‘car’ definite, this sounds strange to most people too)
    • Look at my car! = CORRECT
    • The some people on board the plane didn’t feel well = INCORRECT
    • Some people on board the plane didn’t feel well = CORRECT
  4. Countable singular nouns always need an article or determiner.
    • Plane is on its stand = INCORRECT
    • The / my / his / her / our / your / their / this / that etc…. plane is on its stand = CORRECT (note: this sentences can only have ONE article or determiner)

Check out the diagram below to see a summary of the rules and try to create some of your own examples.

Diagram of how to use a, an & the.
How to use a, an & the.

Tip: It can be difficult to learn these rules and ‘use’ them when speaking. As you read and listen more in English you will naturally start to have an idea when we use a / an / the. In some situations when you’re not sure it can be useful to check the rules, but you’ll correctly use these rules unconsciously as you read and listen to more English so don’t be concerned if they seem difficult.

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