- Use “A” when you mean one. A car, a friend, a pencil.
- Don’t use A with plural. Plural means more than one!
- Don’t use A with noncount. If you can’t count, you can’t have one.
- Use “An” when you mean one. An apple, an interesting movie
- Use “An” when the next sound is a vowel sound. An umbrella An old coat.
- Don’t use An with plural or noncount. Like “A,” it means ONE.
- Don’t use An before “U” when it sounds like YOU. A university. A unit.
- Use An before “H” if the “H” is silent. An herb. An honor. An historic occasion.
- Use nothing (no a, no an) before a plural noun. (you can use “the” before a plural noun. The children are in the park.)
- Use nothing (no a, no an) before a noncount noun. (You can use “the” before a noncount noun. The milk tastes bad.)
- Use nothing if you have a possessive adjective: my car, your class. Not, a hisjacket not the my sister.
- Use nothing if you don’t have a noun. NOT “a funny”, but A funny movie.(movie is a noun)
NOT “the happy”. The happy children. (children is a noun)
NOT “an early”. An early class. (class is a noun)
- Second time you talk about it – I saw a dog today. The dog was big.
Unique – the listener/reader knows which one you mean
- Ordering – the first, the second, the third…
- Superlatives – the best, the fastest, the tallest, the worst…
- Everyone knows it – the moon, the earth
- Everyone knows it in this place – the blackboard, the ceiling
- Everyone knows it in this group – Dad, can I have the car?
- Tell which one by pointing – the book, the chair
- Tell which one with a phrase – the house with red windows, the girl who is sitting outside
- The ____ of ____, or The _____ that _____ (defined in the sentence)
- Parts of something – when talking about a house: the windows, the garden…
More uses of “THE”
- Countries viewed as federations or unions – The USA, the United Kingdom, the Philippines…
- Mountains/lakes if they are a set (not just one) – the Great Lakes, the Rocky Mountains, the Alps…
- Oceans/Seas – the Mediterranean, the Pacific Ocean
- Rivers – the Amazon, the Nile, the Mississippi River
- Deserts – the Sahara, the Mohave Desert…
- Some specific diseases – the flu, the mumps.
- Inventions – The electric light was invented in 18??. I heard it on the radio. I like the computer.
- Public buildings – the post office, the library, the bank, the hospital.
Activities: school, Church, Temple, prison, TV, bed. – “The” means the physical thing. No “the” means the activity.
- I go to school on Tuesdays (meaning I study).
- I go to the school to pick up my kids (meaning the place).
- I watch TV (activity).
- I put the flowers on the TV (in that place). The TV is broken (the machine).
- I go to bed late. (meaning I sleep)
- I make the bed when I get up. (meaning arrange the physical place)
- My brother went to prison. (he was arrested)
- I go to the prison to visit him. (the physical place)
Home no article – I’m going home. This is an extension of the rule above. “House” is a physical thing. “Home” is a feeling. We say make yourself “at home.”
Meals – No “the” with breakfast, lunch, dinner. I ate lunch. Lunch is ready! Not “the lunch.” Use an article “a” if you add an adjective “That was a great lunch.” “I usually eat a big dinner.”
RULE: Every singular count noun must have a determiner. I determiner can be an article or it can be a possessive (my, your, the boss’, my friend’s), or it can be words like this, that, these, those, each, every, per, one, some, no.