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A fruit...the fruit...fruit?

I like fruit.
A fruit has fallen from the tree.
The fruit is ripe.

Why?!?!?! Articles are horrid little creatures. You can't live with them and you can't live without them. They are tiny yet essential parts of every language. Thankfully, in English, there are only three of them, but unfortunately there is a long list of rules on how to use these three little words. This post should help to simplify all those rules so that you avoid making these small yet unforgivable mistakes in the future! If you want a full, in-depth explanation, you can download the free PDF at the end of the article.


The indefinite articles - a/an

These two little tiny words are called indefinite articles because they are used to talk about general, or non-specific, things. Here are some basic rules and examples:

used with singular, countable nouns (a/an=1): countable nouns are nouns that can be quantified with numbers, for example:

There is an (1) apple and a (1) banana in the basket.

​a + consonant sound There's a big tree outside my window.

There is a university near my house.

She wants to buy a house.

an + vowel sound

Take an umbrella with you, it's raining.

I'll meet you in an hour.


The definite article - the

As its name suggests, "the" is used to talk about specific things. Take a look at the chart for some examples and rules:

used with both countable and uncountable nouns.

​used with singular, specific nouns:

There's a bee on the flower (first mention - general).

The bee is looking for pollen (second mention - specific).

​used with plural, specific nouns:

There are many dogs outside (first mention - general).

The dogs belong to my sister (second mention - specific).

used with singular, uncountable nouns:

The rice will be cooked in 15 minutes.

The advice you gave me was very helpful.

used with unique nouns:

The Sun, the Universe, the Earth,the Internet

The Colosseum, The London Eye, The Great Wall of China


No article needed

This is the trickiest thing to use an article or not to use, that is the question. There are many exceptions to the rules I mentioned above, so hopefully this chart helps a bit!

Don't use "the" in the following situations:

  • Plural, general nouns

    • She loves animals.

    • Children say silly things.

  • School subjects

    • I don't like maths.

  • Countries, cities, streets, bridges, squares, parks, stations

    • I live in Italy.

    • Times Square is a popular with tourists.

    • The train arrives to Central Station at 7:00.

  • Individual mountains, islands, lakes, continents

    • Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world.

    • Sicily is a beautiful island


The articles are a tricky thing to master, but keep at it! Download this PDF to help you review when you have a doubt!

Download PDF • 245KB

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