Explanations » A1 Grammar Explanations » A/an, the, no article – the use of articles in English
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A/an, the, no article – Grammar chart

Grammar chart explaining the use of English articles 'a/an', 'the', and when to use no article, with examples for each scenario.

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Use a/an

First mention

We use a/an when we mention something for the first time.

  • I saw an old woman with a dog in the park.

Jobs and descriptions

We use a/an to talk about people’s jobs or to say what kind of person or thing something/somebody is.

  • Paula is a teacher.
  • Paris is an interesting city.
  • When I was a teenager, I enjoyed sleeping.

Note that you cannot use singular countable nouns alone (without athemy, etc.)

  • I don’t have driving license. blank
  • I don’t have a driving license. blank
  • This hotel doesn’t have spa. blank
  • This hotel doesn’t have a spablank

Use the

Second mention

We use the when we mention something for the second time.

  • A man and a woman sat in front of me. The man was British, but I think the woman wasn’t.

Specific things

We use the to talk about specific things or people –when it’s clear which things or people we are talking about.

  • ‘Where are the kids?’ ‘They’re in the garden.’ (=We know which kids and which garden.)
  • Can you open the door? (=We know which door.)

There is only one

We use the when there’s only one of something.

  • This company is very profitable. The manager must be really good.
  • I’d like to live in this country, but not in the capital.
  • The moon looks beautiful today.

Common places in town

With places in a town where we commonly go (the park, the cinema, the doctor, etc.)

  • I’m going to the bank.
  • I found Peter at the station.
  • I’m at the library.

Superlatives

We use the before superlative adjectives.

  • This is the best restaurant in town.

Musical instruments

We use the before names of musical instruments.

  • Margaret plays the guitar and I play the flute. 

Use no article

General meaning

We do not use an article before plural or uncountable nouns to talk about something in general.

  • I don’t drink milk.
  • Women drive more cautiously than men.

Compare:

  • I love music. (=Music in general.)
  • I loved the music at the party. (=Specific music.)
  • Children are often difficult. (=Children in general.)
  • They are a nice family. The children are very funny. (=The children in that family.)

Meals

We do not use an article before the names of mealsbreakfast, lunch, or dinner.

  • Dinner is served at 8.
  • I always have breakfast with my children.

Years, months and days

We do not use an article before names of years, months and days of the week.

  • Friday is my favourite day of the week.
  • I think 2020 will be an excellent year.

TV

We do not use an article with TV (when used as a broadcasting service, NOT as an appliance)

  • I saw it on TV.
  • I don’t watch TV.

But: Turn off the TV. I’ve bought a new TV.

Names of languages and school subjects

We do not use an article before the names of languages and school subjects.

  • He doesn’t speak English.
  • I study biology

Next, last

We do not use an article before next and last + time expression (when they mean before or after now).

  • The meeting is next Thursday.
  • I saw him last week.

Compare:

  • Last year we spent one week in London (Last year= the year before now).
  • We really loved London. The last day we were really sad. (The last day= the last day of that trip. NOT the day before now)