Learning English
Grammar Rules: ▼ Tenses ▼ Futures ▼ Conditionals ▼ Relative Clauses ▼ Passives ▼ Reported Speech ▼ Questions ▼ Articles ▼ Adjectives ▼ Modal Verbs ▼ Gerunds/Infinitives
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Grammar Terms
FCE practice

Articles ('a' and 'the'): General Rules



articles (I hate cats)

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

I hate cats. (all cats)

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 hate the three cats which live next door. (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)

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

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

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

Articles (a/the) practice Next Lesson: A/the + buildings