Read the following general rules about using articles (a, an and the) in English. Then, when you are ready, try these exercises to practise using them.

Using articles in English

I like cats. (generalisations with no definite article)Generalisations

We don't use 'a' or 'the' with plural and uncountable nouns when we make generalisations.

I like cats. (cats in general, not just one)

Specific examples - THE

We use 'the' to talk about specific examples (just one, or many) from a group, when the listener knows which one we are talking about.

I hate the big cat from next door. (only this cat)

I love the three cats which my sister just bought. (only these cats)

Any of a group - A/AN

We use 'a' with singular nouns when we don't care or it isn't important which one we are talking about.

Can I have a cat? (any cat, just one) 

There are lots of exceptions to these rules though - see the other articles pages to learn more information.


What's the difference between "a" and "an"?

We use 'an' when the next word starts with a vowel sound (e.g. 'an apple', 'an umbrella') and 'a' for other words (e.g. 'a dog', 'a tree'). The pronunciation is important, not the spelling. For example, we say a university because 'university' is pronounced 'you-niversity'. We say an honest man because 'honest' is pronounced 'onest'.

Now, try these exercises to practise using articles in English.