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How to Write English Sentences Using Articles

There are only three articles used in the English language: "a, an & the".

There are two types of articles: indefinite 'a' & 'an' and definite 'the'.

For this presentation we are not including: Partitive, Negative or Zero articles.

How to Use English Articles in Sentences

Indefinite Articles - "a and an"

"A" and "an" are the indefinite articles and can act as determiners.

We use "a or an" when we are talking about something for the first time.

They refer to something not specifically known to the person you are communicating with.

"A and an" are used before nouns that introduce something or someone you have not mentioned before.

"A and an" are used where the precise identity may be irrelevant or hypothetical.

We use "a or an" to define what kind of person or thing someone or something is.

We use "a or an" with an adjective, or to indicate that it belongs to a particular group.

For specific "a or an" use selection depends on the following word.

If the next word begins with a consonant sound when we say it.

For example, "university" then we use "a".

If the next word begins with a vowel sound when we say it. For example "hour" then we use "an".

We say "university" with a "y" sound at the beginning as though it were spelt "yniversity".

Definite Article - "the"

You use "the" when you know that the listener knows or can work out what particular person or thing you are talking about.

We use "the" when we are talking about a specific person or thing, or if there is only one, or if it is clear which one we are talking about.

You should also use "the" when you have already mentioned the thing you are talking about.

We use "the" to talk about geographical points on the globe.

We use "the" with plural names of people and places.

We normally use "the" with buildings.

For Example: The White House, The Hilton Hotel.

With school, university, prison, hospital, church, work and home we use "the" when we are talking about a particular or specific item, and no article when we are talking about the idea of school, university, prison, hospital, church, work and home.

We use an article before the names of countries where they indicate multiple areas or contain nouns. State(s), kingdom, republic and union are nouns, so they need an article.

For Example: Use "the" - the UK (United Kingdom), the USA (United States of America)

For Example: Use "the" for multiple areas - the Netherlands, the Philippines, the British Isles.

We use "the" with oceans, seas, rivers and canals.

We use "the" with directions: north, south, east and west to talk about the location of a place within another place, but no article is used to compare the location of two places.

When No article is Used

We usually use no article to talk about things or people in general.

For Example: Inflation is rising. Crime is a problem.

You do not use an article when talking about sports.

For example: My son plays football. Polo is expensive.

You do not use an article before uncountable nouns when talking about them generally.

For example: Information is important to any organisation. Coffee is bad for you.

You do not use an article before the names of countries.

For example: No article with: Italy, Mexico, Bolivia, England

We use no article with continents, countries, regions, cities, streets, mountains, lakes and parks.

For Example: Asia, Canada, Ontario, Toronto, Yonge St., Mount Everest, Lake Huron, Bloor Park

If you liked this page of English grammar explanations and samples and would like more - you can buy the 96 page grammar summary "Blueprint for English" eBook (for 5 dollars) and get the SentenceMaster practice word cards. Use this grammar eBook to become an English writer.

Link to the Sentence Master English Grammar Article writing exercises

For additional English writing tips and examples go to the following links

How to write English Sentences - Introduction

How to write English Sentences - start with a basic thought

How to write English Sentences - choose one of the six basic sentence constructions

How to write English Sentences - choose one of the four sentence types

How to write English Sentences - choose the correct English verb tenses

How to write English Sentences - choose the active or passive voice

How to write English Sentences using Nouns

How to write English Sentences using Noun Phrases

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