Definite and indefinite article

Definite and indefinite article

Among the most obscure parts of speech in English is the article. It can perhaps be attributed to particles, but only by a few percent. The article has several features, for example: it is placed only before nouns, defines only countable nouns, indicates, most often, that the noun is in the singular. 

In English, there are two types of articles: definite and indefinite, and they are used in their own way. 


The article can be found in almost every English sentence. Their use is directly related to your level of English, so they can be called a kind of indicator. The use of the article in English depends on several factors. In more scientific terms, the article is a part of speech that helps express the certainty or indefiniteness of the subject. There are several articles in English. Basically, the article is placed before singular nouns, but there are several other features of the use of articles. Let's figure it out together. 

So let's start with the indefinite article. It is of two types - a / an. The use of each of them depends on which letter the noun begins with. If the noun begins with a consonant, we put the article a, if it starts with a vowel, an. A catch that can jump out from behind a corner is an adjective used in a phrase with a noun. In this case, we will look at the first letter of the adjective that defines the noun. 

  • A car, a toy, a washing machine 
  • An orange, an elephant, an apple 
  • A red apple, a gray elephant 


When put a / an 

This article is called the indefinite article. It is mainly used before nouns, indicating their singular. But that's not all. So, the indefinite article will be used in the following cases: 

  • If we just say or mention someone, or describe an object or person without going into details
  • The conversation is about something unknown or uncertain

I didn't know he had a dog.  

Do you want a glass of water?  

  • With a mention of the profession

My best friend is a musician.  

She said she is a nurse at a local hospital.  

  • When it comes to a trend or social movement

You know, Johnathan is a vegan. 

Her best friend is an EMO, can you imagine this?  

I am a biker. I have a great motorcycle.  

  • When it comes to nationality, and the person is mentioned in the singular

She's a Korean. We've been friends for a long time.  

  • When a person's quality is expressed by a noun in a sentence

She's such a bookworm. 

He's just an idiot, nothing more.  

  • When talking about the day of the week in general

Easter is on Wednesday next day.  

  • Before an adjective characterizing a noun (the choice of the article depends on the first letter of the adjective)

I bought a beautiful dress yesterday.  

  • If we are talking about a subject for the first time

My mom killed a spider yesterday.  

I had an apple for breakfast.  

  • After “there is”

There is a really nice restaurant near here. We must go there.  

  • With singular nouns and units of measurement in the meaning of "one"

Please give me a hundred dollars. 

I'll be there in an hour. Wait for me.  

  • If we are talking about paired things, then the article will only stand before the first noun

A salt and pepper. - Salt and pepper. 

A knife and fork. - Knife and fork. 

  • With the words rather, quite, such

You are such a good friend! So supportive!  

  • In established turnovers like

A lot of. 

A little bit  

To have a look  

It is a pity  



When we use “the” 

The general rule for using the definite article is 

- mention of a specific subject or object 

Can you close the door? It's noisy. - Can you close the door? Noisy. 

Where's the kitchen? - Where is the kitchen? (specific cuisine) 

- mentioning the word a second and subsequent times in the same conversation 

- geographical names (seas, rivers, oceans, parts of the world, mountain ranges, etc.) 


Among the special cases of the use of the definite article, the following stand out: 

- the article is placed before singular and exceptional objects 

the sun 

The environment 

- The definite article is used in the formation of the superlative degree of adjectives in combination with a noun 

The most interesting story 

The tallest building of this area 

The biggest eyes I've ever seen 

- To describe a class, a group of objects, the construction article + noun in the singular is used 

The husky is a very clumsy breed.  

The government should let young people speak.  

- When referring to a group of people who are similar in common, the article + adjective construction is used 

The poor 

The homeless 

- If we talk about the whole family as one big group, calling her last name 

The Jones are really good people. The Joneses are really good people. 

- With names of buildings, newspapers, sports events, historical periods 

The times, The Empire state building, The Renaissance, etc. 


Article choice 

In order to be able to choose the correct article, it is not necessary to memorize all cases of use, for a start it will be enough to learn a few basic rules. 

First, if the word (noun) is mentioned in the conversation for the first time, then the indefinite article will be used. 

Secondly, if you use the same noun a second time in the same conversation, then it will be preceded by a definite article. So the interlocutors will understand that you are talking about what has already been mentioned earlier. 

Thirdly, the definite article is most often needed when certain objects or places6 are mentioned that have their own uniqueness. 


Zero article 

Simply put, this is the complete absence of any article, but the scientific community decided to single it out as such a category as the zero article. 

So, the article is not put: 

- with possessive pronouns 

He is my cat.  

This is my favorite book.  

- abstract noun 

He loves music so much, so he's taking piano lessons.  

- names of states, with the exception of those whose names include the words kingdom states and lands 

Didn't you live in France two years ago?  

The United Kingdom is a very old country.  

- City names (exception - The Hague) 

Moscow has its own charm for tourists.  

The Hague is a city in the Netherlands.  


We have tried to describe the use of articles in English as clearly as possible and sincerely hope that this will help you in your studies.