The use of definite and indefinite articles in English (EFL/ESL Grammar: Rules, use and practice)

EFL/ESL Grammar: Rules, use, and practice

The use of definite and indefinite articles in English 

The definite article /the/ is one of the words that is repeated a lot in the English language.

We use the definite article in different cases:

  1. We use /the/ when the person or the object is familiar and already identified.

Ex: the book you gave me yesterday is really amazing. 

  1. We use /the/when there is only one.

 Ex: the sea is the best place for concentration.

  1. We use /the/ with superlatives

Ex: the biggest tower in the world is in Paris

  1. We use /the/ with the person/object that is already identified. 

Ex: the man had already taken his book. 

  1. We use /the/with names of rivers, seas, oceans.

Ex: I crossed the Atlantic ocean with my uncle. He is a fisherman

We use the indefinite articles (a/an)  in these cases:

  1. (a/an) is used to refer to people, objects, and things that are not familiar or have not been mentioned, or we mention for the first time.

Ex: I have just eaten a banana  —  She has a secret to tell you.

  1. We don’t use (a/an) with possessive pronouns, cardinal numbers and demonstratives.

Ex: my laptop is not working — this place is really dirty and stinky

We use no articles. 

  1. When we refer to cities, countries, sports and games, meals, names of people, streets, continents… etc.

Ex: Africa is a huge continent   –  have you ever visited Serbia? I really like basketball

  1. When we refer to general ideas, plurals, or uncountable nouns. We don’t use /The/

Ex: Money is what all people really need – Moroccan food is very delicious

(NOT the money is what all people need – NOT the Moroccan food is very delicious).


Check your understanding here ... 


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