Use of definite and indefinite articles

English grammar (See all)

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Use of definite and indefinite articles

English words can be preceded by a definite or indefinite article (no gender distinction exists).

The definite article in English is the:
with countable nouns:with uncountable nouns:
the dogthe sugar (referring to some specific sugar)
the flowersthe information (referring to a specific piece of information)
With people and nationalities:
the British, the British people people from Britain

Note: the definite article the is NOT used in the following cases:
•  Uncountable nouns expressing generalities:

Materials: wood, glass, iron
Colors: pink, black, brown
Food: flour, butter, sugar
Human activities: surfing, soccer, war
Languages: Italian, Russian
Abstract nouns: love, freedom
Days of the week: Fridays, Sundays

•  Names of countries:

Thailand, Spain, Peru, Luxembourg
BUT: The United States, The West Indies...

•  Names of people holding titles:

Queen Mary
Doctor Jekyll
President Eisenhower

Indefinite articles for singular nouns in English are a/an. As a general rule, an precedes words starting with a vowel sound and a precedes those starting with a consonant sound:
an anteatera harp
an ice cream conea rhinoceros

Note that words starting with an audible 'h', like 'history' or 'happy' take the 'article 'a'.
He has a history test in an hour.

Note: the indefinite articles a/an can also be used to replace the number '1':
I have a brother and a sister is more natural than 'I have one brother and one sister'.


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