How To Use Articles In English
This week, we’ll look at the articles ‘a,’ ‘an’ and ‘the’ and in which situations we generally use them.
It’s very easy for English learners, especially towards the beginning of their studies, to misuse these articles; for example, instead of the indefinite article (‘a’ or ‘an’), they use the definite article ‘the.’ Consider the following example:
~There are many people in the large city.
In this sentence, we must say ‘a large city.’ Why? Because we’re talking about any large city in the world; in other words, we’re talking about cities in general.
When we mention something for the first time in conversation, we use the indefinite articles:
~Yesterday I saw a man running away from a bank with a gun in his hand.
If we mention the same thing again, then we use the definite article, as we know which specific man (in this example) we’re talking about:
~Several policemen were running after the man.
Another important thing to note: when we speak about things in general, we make the noun plural and we drop the article completely. For example:
~Cats make adorable pets.
~Bread is a breakfast staple.
Notice that we don’t say ‘the cats’ or ‘the bread’ (if a noun doesn’t have a plural form, we just use it on its own).