An article is a word used to modify a noun. It is a kind of adjective that is always used with a noun and gives information about a noun. There are two different types of articles that we use in writing such as definite and indefinite articles.

The definite article is ‘the’ and it’s remains same in any sentence, whether singular or plural, it indicates a specific thing. The indefinite article is  ‘a’  or ‘an’.  We use an when the next word begins with a vowel - a, e, i, o, u because the noun it works with is indefinite or common. 

The noun may be the next word as in (the woman or the man) or there may be adjectives and possibly adverbs between the article and the noun as in (the very smart, young woman or man.)

  • the freckles on his face
  • the alligator in the pond
  • the breakfast wrap on my plate
  • a Mercedes from the parking lot
  • an event in history

Types of Articles

Articles are mainly of two types
  1. Indefinite Articles
  2. Definite Articles

Indefinite articles

Indefinite articles are the words ‘a’ and ‘an’, these articles are used to refer to a noun, but the noun being mentioned to is not particularly a specific person, place, object or idea. It can be any noun from a group of nouns.

‘A’ is used before a word beginning with a consonant sound. Consonant letters such as B,C,D,F,G,H,J,K,L,M,N,P,Q,R,S,T,V,W,X,Y,Z. or before words starting in u and eu when they sound like you. 

 For example: a boy, a dog, a fight, a gym, a horse, a joke, a kite, a lion, a mirror, a pin, a quilt, a bottle, a pen, a ring, a doll, a woman, a tree etc.

 ‘An’ is used before a word beginning with a vowel sound. Vowel letters such as A, E, I, O, U. or with a mute H. 

For example: an hour, an honest lady, an apple, an elephant, an orange, an umbrella, an idiot, an orphan, an egg, an engineer etc. 

Consider the example below:

After the long day, the cup of coffee tastes particularly good.

By using the, we’ve shown that it was one specific day that was long, and one specific cup of coffee that tasted good.

After a long day,  of coffee tastes particularly good.

By using a, we’ve created a general statement, saying that any cup of coffee would taste good after any long day.

The indefinite article is used to refer to a particular member in the group  or to refer something for the first time. Such as:

Use 'a' to refer to something for the first time.

  • Would you like a drink?
  • I've finally got a good job.
  • An elephant and a rat fell in love.

Use 'a' with names of jobs.

  • Jamie is a doctor.
  • Marina is training to be an architect.
  • He wants to be a dancer.

Use 'a' with nationalities and religions in the singular.

  • Jonathan is an Englishman.
  • Maria is a Catholic.
  • Loic is a French Trainer. 

Use 'a' with the names of days of the week when not referring to any particular day.

  • I was born on a Thursday.
  • Could I come over on a Friday sometime?

Use 'a' to refer to an example of something.

  • The mouse had a tiny nose .
  • The giraffe had a long neck.
  • It was a very strange house.

Use 'a' with singular nouns after the words 'what' and 'such'.

  • What a shame !
  • She's such a beautiful girl .
  • What a lovely day !

Use 'a' meaning 'one', referring to a single object or person, or a single unit of measure. This add emphasis to the number, and contrast with other numbers. 

  • I'd like an orange and two lemons please.
  • I can think of a hundred reasons not to come.
  • You can't run a mile in 5 minutes!

Definite Articles

This article is the word ‘the’, and it is used before a singular and plural directly referring to a specific noun or groups of nouns. Each noun or group of nouns being referred to is direct and specific. Nouns in English are led by the definite article.
When the speaker trusts that the listener already knows what he is referring to we use the Definite articles. 

Consider an Example:
dinner = the evening meal
a dinner = an evening meal held for some kind of event
the dinner = a specific evening meal which was held for some kind of event

We also use Definite articles in cases such as:

Use 'the' to refer to something which has already been mentioned.

  • There's a position available in my office. The job will involve some international travel.
  • On Wednesday, an unarmed man stole $5,000 from the grocery shop. The thief hasn't been caught yet.
  • I was walking past Denny's Eatery when I decided to go into the eatery to get some fresh juice.

Use 'the' when you assume there is just one of something in that place, even if it has not been mentioned before.

  • We went on a walk in the woods yesterday.
  • Turn left and go to number 57. Our house is across from the Italian restaurant.
  • Where is the restroom?
Use 'the' in sentences or clauses where you define or identify a particular person or object.

  • The man who wrote this book is famous.
  • He is the dentist I came to see.
  • I live in the small house with a blue door.

Use the to refer to people or objects that are unique.

  • The sun rose at 6:10 this morning.
  • You can go anywhere in the world.
  • Clouds drifted across the sky.
  • The president will be speaking on TV tonight.
Use 'the' before superlatives and ordinal numbers.

  • She read the last chapter of her new book first.
  • This is the highest building in London.
  • This is the third time I have called you today.

Use 'the' with adjectives, to refer to a whole group of people.

  • The elderly require special attention.
  • The French enjoy cheese.
  • She has given a lot of money to the poor.

Use 'the' with decades.

  • This is a painting from the 1720's.
  • He was born in the seventies.

Use 'the' with clauses introduced by only

  • The only tea I like is iced tea.
  • This is the only day we've had sunshine all week.
  • You are the only person he will listen to.

Uses of Articles

One can also use 'the' in cases such as:
  1. Use ‘the’ with the names of restaurants & hotels, unless these are named after a person.
  2. Use ‘the’ with countries that have plural names.
  3. Use ‘the’ with names of geographical areas,groups of islands, rivers, canals, mountain ranges and oceans.
  4. Use ‘the’ with countries that include the words "republic", "kingdom", or "states" in their names.
  5. Use ‘the’ with the names of families, but not with the names of individuals.
  6. Use ‘the’ with the names of famous buildings, museums, works of art or monuments.
  7. Use ‘the’ with newspaper names.
When not to use 'the' 
  1. Do not use 'the' with names of countries.
  2. Do not use 'the' with the names of meals.
  3. Do not use 'the' with names of shops.
  4. Do not use 'the' with people's names.
  5. Do not use 'the' with professions.
  6. Do not use 'the' with titles when combined with names.
  7. Do not use 'the' with the names of languages.
  8. Do not use 'the' after the 's possessive case.
  9. Do not use 'the' with uncountable nouns.
  10. Do not use 'the' with years.
  11. Do not use 'the; when referring to points on the globe.
  12. Do not use 'the' with most names of towns, stations, streets and airports.
  13. Do not use 'the' with the names of individual mountains, lakes and islands.
Exclusion of Articles

We most often exclude the use of articles, some common types of nouns that don't take an article are:
  • Names of languages and nationalities: Chinese, English, Russian, Spanish (unless you are referring to the population of the nation: "The Russian are known for their warmth.")
  • Names of sports: volleyball, hockey, baseball
  • Names of academic subjects: mathematics, biology, history, computer science