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Structure: ‘a / an / the 5’

Fly High English - Structure

This time in our structure help we go through some final thoughts in relation to using ‘the’.

Use the with superlative adjectives.

e.g. He is the best pilot in the company.

e.g. This is the biggest plane in the fleet.

Don’t use the before people’s names.

e.g. CORRECT: I invited Peter to visit the cockpit. INCORRECT: I invited the Peter…

Those are the most important points that you need to know about using ‘a, an and the. Come back next week as we move on to another structure point!

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Structure: ‘a / an / the 4’

Focusing on ‘the’

We use ‘the’ when we it’s clear (or should be clear) which thing(s) or person(s) we are talking about. There are usually a few reasons for this:

eg We’ll talk more at the hotel.
1) This hotel is the usual one the speaker and listener go to.

eg Did you find the chart?
2) The listener knows which chart because it was mentioned previously.

eg Can you pass me the red pen?
3) The speaker makes it clear which thing he’s talking about. (‘red’ here helps to make it clear)

eg Don’t open the (cockpit) door, there’s a crazy passenger trying to get in.
4) It’s clear from the situation which thing the speaker is talking about because there’s only one in the area.

Using ‘the’ helps the listener understand that he/she should know the thing or person being mentioned.

Study the situations above and try to create some of your own examples.

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Structure: ‘a / an / the 3’

General tendencies when using articles

1) When talking in general about people or things we don’t use the with plural nouns or uncountable nouns.

eg Planes transport people huge distances in short periods of time. (not specific planes but planes in general)
eg Pilots have to do recurrent training every year. (not specific pilots but pilots in general)

2) When talking about jobs or types of things, use a / an with a singular noun to say what job a person has, what group something belongs to or what we use something for.

eg He’s a dispatcher.
eg We have a checklist to remind us of everything we need to check.

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Structure: ‘a / an / the 1’

What are articles and when do we use them?

In grammar terms, articles are ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’. These are some of the most common words in English and in many Western European languages there are article systems that are similar to articles in English, but with some differences.

Use: We use articles to indicate if something we are talking about is known to the speaker and the listener (it’s definite) or if it’s something which is not known to both the speaker and listener (it’s indefinite). Let’s look at an example.

eg Before my flight I was in the lounge.

In this sentence the speaker is indicating to the listener (by saying ‘the lounge’) that he/she knows the lounge (perhaps it’s the lounge that the speaker usually goes to, or it’s the only lounge in the airport). Whatever the reason, the speaker is indicating that the listener already knows about the lounge (it’s definite).

Let’s look at a second example.

We punctured a tyre after landing.

In this sentence the speaker is indicating to the listener (by saying ‘a tyre’) that he/she doesn’t know about the burst tyre. A plane has many tyres so it’s impossible to know which one was punctured. Later in the conversation however, the speaker my say;

…we’ll have to replace the punctured tyre.

In this sentence, ‘punctured tyre’ has become definite (‘the punctured tyre’) because it was mentioned previously, even though you don’t know which specific tyre was punctured, you know that the punctured tyre exists, and that’s why it has become definite.

Tip: Information that begins as indefinite becomes definite. ie Something which you first describe as ‘a plane’ then becomes ‘the plane’ when you mention it again.

Check out the diagram below and our other posts on articles to find out more about definite and indefinite articles.

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

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