Should I use the, a/an or no article? How can I know for sure? Are there any rules? It’s so complicated!

If you find it difficult to use the three English articles, you are not alone. It is one of the most difficult areas of English grammar. I have two pieces of good news for you if you are a learner having difficulty with English articles.

1. When you make mistakes it’s not usually serious. Most native speakers are used to « international English » and can usually understand what you mean.

2. If you can remember 3 simple rules, you will avoid the mistakes that are the most common and the most obvious. Here they are:

  • Don’t use singular countable nouns without articles.

Have you seen the car key? I don’t know; there is a car key on the table. Is it yours? (not *Have you seen car key? etc.)

  • Don’t use the with plural and uncountable nouns to talk about things in general.

Politics is boring. (not *The politics is boring)
Apples are good for your health (not *The apples … )

  • Use a/an to say what people’s professions or jobs are.

Peter was a salesman, but he is now training to become an architect. (not *Peter was salesman etc.)

Just remembering these three rules will fix most of your article errors.  Do you have questions about using articles? Ask your question in a comment.

photo credit: mikecogh cc

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