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:
- We use /the/ when the person or the object is familiar and already identified.
Ex: the book you gave me yesterday is really amazing.
- We use /the/when there is only one.
Ex: the sea is the best place for concentration.
- We use /the/ with superlatives
Ex: the biggest tower in the world is in Paris
- We use /the/ with the person/object that is already identified.
Ex: the man had already taken his book.
- 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:
- (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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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).
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