Topic outline

    • Articles

      There are 3 articles in English i.e. ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’. In fact there are certain situations where no article is needed. We have to follow certain guidelines in order to decide which article to use before a noun in the sentence.

      First of all we have to categorize the noun as countable and uncountable. Countable nouns are those that refer to something that can be counted. They have both singular and plural forms (e.g. flower/flowers; man/men; country/countries). In the singular, they can be preceded by ‘a’ or ‘an’. Uncountable nouns are those that cannot be divided into separate elements and thus cannot be counted. For example- milk, oil, hair etc.

      Rules for using articles ‘a’ and ‘an’.

      1. Indefinite articles includes - ‘a’ and ‘an’. Articles ‘a’ and ‘an’ are called indefinite articles because they refer to any member of a group, rather than to a particular member of the group. We use them before a singular countable noun. Example: a pen, a boy, a plant, a building, a man, a red umbrella, a camel, a swimming pool, a university, etc.

      2. We use ‘a’ and ‘an’ depending upon the sound with which a countable noun begins. Noun may begin with a consonant sound or a vowel sound.

      3. We use ‘an’ if the following word begins with a vowel sound although they begin with a consonant. Example: an apple, an elephant, an hour, an MBA, an MNC, an MLA, an MP, an umbrella, an Igloo, an octopus, an honest girl, an ugly dress, an egg etc.

      4. We use ‘a’ if the following word begins with a consonant sound. Example: a table, a girl, a book, a teacher, a union, etc.

      5. We usually use a/an before a singular countable noun when we introduce a noun for the first time while speaking or writing.

      6. Article ‘a’ is also used in phrases like have a headache, a bad cold, a noise, to be in a hurry, a good option etc.

      7. The plural of indefinite articles ‘a/an’ is ‘some’. Word ‘some’ is used to denote unknown or any of the things.


          a. There are some mangoes trees in his garden.

          b. Pick up some mustard oil. (Means oil of any brand.)

      Rules for using article ‘the’

      ‘The’ is called as the definite article as it points to a specific person or thing. Here the speaker as well the writer is aware of the identity of the noun.


             a.   The sun is the ultimate source of energy.

             b.   I met the doctor who is a neurosurgeon.

             c.   The order for laptops was sent yesterday.


      1. We use ‘the’ before a noun when we talk about a particular member of a group (common noun). Example: The minister was invited for inauguration function of the mall.

          2. Article ‘the’ is also used when noun is unique and one of its kind. Example: the morning star, the saturn, the earth, the moon, the sun, the sky, the stars, the heaven, the hell etc.

           3. Article ‘the’ is used on its subsequent reference after it has already been introduced or used while writing or speaking. Example: I saw a boy and a girl playing along the beach. The boy was making a castle using sand. In this sentence, both the words ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ are countable nouns and hence the words are preceded by ‘a’ when used for the first time. But the same word is preceded by ‘the’ when repeated in the same context.

          4. Definite article ‘the’ is also used before superlative adjectives. Example: the tallest tree, the most beautiful house, the longest rope, the least harmful medicine, the best option etc.

               Sample Sentence

      a.   This is the smallest umbrella I have ever seen.

      b.   Our kitchen garden is the biggest in our neighborhood.

      c.   This is the best alternative among others.

      d.   She is the most beautiful girl in our locality.

      5. Use ‘the’ to represent the entire class or group of people, animals or things.


         a.  The cat is as nice as dog.  

         b.   The toddler is naughty by nature.

      6. Before the names of (a) sacred books, (b) newspapers, (c) rivers, (d) well known buildings, (e) mountain ranges, (f) seas, oceans, (g) islands etc.


           a.   The Gita, the Bible, the Guru Granth Sahib, the Quran.

          b.   The Times of India, The Indian Express, The Hindustan Times, The New York Times, The Tribune, The Indian Express etc.

           c.   The Ganga, the Nile, the Yamuna, the Indus, the Narmada etc.

           d. The Himalayas, the Andes, the Western Ghats, the Nilgiris, the Alps etc.

          e. The Indian Ocean, the Antarctic Ocean,  the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Arctic Ocean.

      7. Write ‘the’ before the names of communities. Example:  the Hindus, the Muslims, the Cholas, the Christians, the Sikhs, the English, the Aryans.

      8. Use article ‘the’ in phrases like in the winter, in the summer, in the autumn, in the morning, in the evening, in the afternoon, in the night and linkers like on the other hand, to speak the reality, to tell you the fact etc.

      9. We use ‘the’ following a class. Example: the rich, the poor, the middle class, the elite, the schedule caste etc.

      10. Use ‘the’ when ‘of’ is a part of the school’s or universities name. Example: the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India, the University of Calcutta etc.

      11. Use article ‘the’ to refer a part from a large group.


             a. One of the girls was absent.

             b. Some of the stolen jewelry was recovered.

      12. Avoid using ‘the’ unless the name of the country refers to a group or has the word “of” within the name. Example: United States of America. 

      13. Use the before ordinal numbers such as “first,” “second,” “third”, “fourth”  etc.

      Omission of the Article

      1. Do not use articles before cities and streets. Example: His clinic is in Ghaziabad.

      2. When we refer to a common noun that stands for something in the widest of sense.


             a. He is only man. (It means that he cannot be God.)

             b. What kind of answer is it?

      3. Skip article in case of material noun.


             a. Platinum is very precious.

             b. Don’t waste water.

      4. Skip article while referring to language.


             a. Hindi is my mother tongue.

             b. I scored good grade in English in my first term exam.

      5. Articles are not required while referring the name of a relation like brother, sister, mother, father, husband, God.


             a. My brother is coming tonight.

             b. Mother is already home.

      6. Article is not used before proper nouns like Qutub Minar, Rajiv, Delhi except in few cases.


             a. He is the Shakespeare of our city.

             b. He is the Newton of this era.

      7. Do not use any article before temple, church, school, hospital, bed, market, court, etc. which are visited for the primary purpose for which they have been created.


              a. She is going to market.(to shop)

              b. She is going to the market. (for some other purpose)


    • Download to practice offline.