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Tutoring & Academic Success Centre

formerly known as The Learning Centre

Tutoring & Academic Success Centre

Articles Basics

The Basics

There are two types of articles: definite and indefinite. A/An are indefinite articles and The is a definite article.

A An The No Article
Used with a non-specific (indefinite) noun that starts with a consonant. Used with a non-specific (indefinite) noun that starts with a vowel. Used with a specific (definite) noun. Used with generalized nouns.
Used to indicate a singular noun Used to indicate singular or plural nouns
Exceptions:
When the u is long (university) use a
When the u is short (umbrella) use an
When the h is pronounced (house) use a
When the h is silent (hour) use an
If the noun has already been mentioned, use the for the second reference. He has an umbrella. The umbrella is red. Psychology is the study of the mind. Cats are interesting animals.

Additional Details

Use the when:

  1. It is a specific nounExample. The umbrella on the table is mine.
  2. It is the second time the noun has been named and defined (unless an adjective has been used)Example. Our teacher told us we have a test next class. The test is going to cover everything we’ve studied since our midterm.
  3. Specificity can be inferred from the contextExample. My computer broke down yesterday. Luckily, my cousin can fix the problem.
  4. The noun is something that is unique or generally knownExample. Celine Dion, the singer, is from Quebec.
  5. Used with the______ of ______Example. The United States of America or the United Kingdom
  6. The noun is representative or abstractExample. The beaver is on the Canadian nickel.
  7. Using plural nounsExample. He told the students to hand in their work on Friday.
  8. Using superlatives
    (the biggest, the most interesting, the least entertaining, the shortest)Example. The tallest building in the world used to be the CN Tower.