Articles in English are invariable. That is, they do not change according to the gender or number of the noun they refer to, e.g. the boy, the woman, the children
‘The’ is used:
- to refer to something which has already been mentioned.
An elephant and a mouse fell in love.
The mouse loved the elephant’s long trunk,
and the elephant loved the mouse’s tiny nose.
- when both the speaker and listener know what is being talked about, even if it has not been mentioned before.
‘Where’s the bathroom?‘
‘It’s on the first floor.’
- in sentences or clauses where we define or identify a particular person or object:
The man who wrote this book is famous.
‘Which car did you scratch?’ ‘The red one.
My house is the one with a blue door.’
- to refer to objects we regard as unique:
the sun, the moon, the world
- before superlatives and ordinal numbers:
the highest building, the first page, the last chapter.
- with adjectives, to refer to a whole group of people:
the Japanese, the old
- with names of geographical areas and oceans:
the Caribbean, the Sahara, the Atlantic
- with decades, or groups of years:
she grew up in the seventies
A / AN
Use ‘a’ with nouns starting with a consonant (letters that are not vowels),
‘an’ with nouns starting with a vowel (a,e,i,o,u)
An before an h mute – an hour, an honour.
A before u and eu when they sound like ‘you’: a european, a university, a unit
The indefinite article is used:
- to refer to something for the first time:
An elephantand a mouse fell in love.
Would you like a drink?
I’ve finally got a good job.
- to refer to a particular member of a group or class
- with names of jobs:
John isa doctor.
Mary is training to be an engineer.
He wants to be a dancer.
- with nationalities and religions:
John isan Englishman.
Kate is a Catholic.
- with musical instruments:
Sherlock Holmes was playinga violin when the visitor arrived.
(BUT to describe the activity we say “He plays the violin.”)
- with names of days:
I was born ona Thursday
- to refer to a kind of, or example of something:
the mouse hada tiny nose
the elephant had a long trunk
it was a very strange car
- with singular nouns, after the words‘what’ and ‘such’:
What a shame!
She’s such a beautiful girl.
- meaning ‘one’, referring to a single object or person:
I’d likean orange and two lemons please.
The burglar took a diamond necklace and a valuable painting.
Notice also that we usually say a hundred, a thousand, a million.
NOTE: that we use ‘one‘ to add emphasis or to contrast with other numbers:
I don’t know one person who likes eating elephant meat.
We’ve got six computers but only one printer.