a/an, the, no article – grammar chart
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 a, the, my etc.)
- I don’t have a driving license (NOT I don’t have driving license)
- This hotel doesn’t have a spa. (NOT This hotel doesn’t have spa.)
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.
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.
We use the before superlative adjectives.
- This is the best restaurant in town.
We use the before names of musical instruments.
- Margaret plays the guitar and I play the flute.
Use no article
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.
- 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.)
We do not use an article before names of meals: breakfast, lunch, 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.
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 names of languages and school subjects.
- He doesn’t speak English.
- I study biology.
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.
- Last year we spend 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)