What is an article? 

Basically, an article is an adjective.

Like adjectives, articles modify nouns.

The articles are the words that define whether something is specific or unspecific. These words are "a," "an," and "the."

An article is a word that goes before a noun, giving some basic information about the noun, such as if it is singular or plural, or if the object is specific or general.


There are two types of article:

(1) The Definite Article (The) 

(2) The Indefinite Articles (A, An)

Also, English articles can be grouped as: 

(1) the (for definite reference) 

(2) a/an (singular form) 

(3) Zero Article (no article needed) 



"The" is called the definite article because it 'defines' its noun as something specific. 

"The" is called the definite article because it is used to indicate something specific.

It defines something previously mentioned or something known to the speaker(s). 

It also defines something unique or  something being identified by the speaker(s). It is something specific, obvious, visible, vivid, familiar, or clear to the speaker and listeners. 

The main thing to remember when you speak is that the first time you refer to something, you generally need to use "a" or "an". The second time you refer to the same thing you can use "the". And when you refer to a unique thing or place, you can use "the". Here are some examples of using both "a/an" and "the":


(1) They had a long meeting. When the meeting ended they had a coffee break. ('meeting' was previously mentioned) 

(2) We need a saucepan. I think there's one in the kitchen. ('kitchen' is previously referred) 

(3) He started here as an office worker. Now he's  the Managing Director! ('he' is previously mentioned) 

(4) We're planning a holiday. We'll probably go to the sea. ('holiday' is previously mentioned) 

(5) Being a doctor must be difficult. The doctor I saw yesterday was very kind. ('doctor' is previously mentioned) 

(6) I must buy some sugar. The sugar bowl is empty. ('sugar' is previously mentioned) 

(7) This is the police officer who arrested me. (Police officer is known to the speaker and the readers/listeners). 

(8) The case has been submitted to the court. (The case is known to the speaker and the readers/listeners). 

(9) I fell over the chair again.

(The chair is specific. It is known to the audience.)

(10) This is the file you ordered me to find. (The file is specific and it is known to the speaker and the listener). 


"A" and "an" are called the indefinite articles because they define their noun as something unspecific. 

They define something in generic way, something which is mentioned for the first time. 

So, "A" and "an" are called the indefinite articles because they are used to indicate something unspecific.

Articles "a/an" 

We use an indefinite article in English when:

- We refer to something for the first time

- We refer to a general thing, and not something specific

- We describe a person's profession

- We use a in front of a consonant sound, and an in front of a vowel sound (a,e,i,o,u).

Examples of sentences: 

(1) Help me a knife. (This means an unspecified knife, any knife? 

(2) Can you pass me a chair?

(This means an unspecific chair, i.e., any chair.)

(3) I love an apple pie after dinner.

(The audience understands that the speaker likes to eat an apple after dinner, any apple pie will do)

(4) This is a lake. (This is a previously unspecified lake by the speaker.)

(5) There's  a dog in the garden!

(6) I need a pen to write this letter.

(7) She is an accountant. She works for a multinational company.

(8) We need an apple and an orange for the fruit salad.

(9) Is there a whiteboard in the classroom?

(10) My husband drives a lorry.


Some common types of nouns that don't take an article are:

(1) Names of languages and nationalities: Chinese,

English, Spanish, Russian (unless you are referring to

the population of the nation: "The Spanish are known

for their warm hospitality.")

(2) Names of sports: volleyball, hockey, baseball

(3) Names of academic subjects: mathematics, biology,

history, computer science

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See Also:


[1] Academic Words Questions 1 - 50

[2] Academic Words Answers 1 - 50

[3] Adjective Questions 1 – 50

[4] Adjective Answers 1 - 50

[5] Adjective Questions 51 – 100

[6] Adjective Answers 51 - 100

[7] Adverbs Questions 1 – 50

[8] Adverb Answers 1 – 50

[9] Article Questions 1 - 50

[10] Article Answers 1 – 50

[11] Conjunction Questions 1 – 50

[12] Conjunction Answers 1 – 50

[13] Vocabulary Questions 1 - 50

[14] Vocabulary Answers 1 - 50

[15] Vocabulary Questions 51 - 100

[16] Vocabulary Answers 51 - 100

[17]  English Grammar questions

[18] 51-100 General Grammar Questions

[19] 51-100 General Grammar Answers

[20] 1-50 General Concessions Questions

[21] 1-50 General Concessions Answers

[22] 1-50 General Sentence Structure Questions

[23] 1-50 General Sentence Structure Answers

[24] 1-50 General Tense Questions

[25] 1-50 General Tense Answers

[26] 1-50 General Literature Questions

[27] 1-50 General Literature Answers

[28] 1-50 General Grammar Questions

[29] 1-50 General Grammar Answers



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Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.

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