There is often confusion amongst English learners when to use the definite and indefinite articles.
The Definite Article.
- We use THE when the identity of the person or thing is known to the writer and the reader. We are talking about a specific thing.
The book I was reading is really entertaining.
Shall I bring the cake with me when I come to dinner.
Both the cake and the book are specific and known objects that are being talked about.
- When there can only be one person or thing referred to.
The Queen, The Prince of Wales.
- In front of superlative adjectives.
The best way to pass your exam is to study.
The biggest lie I ever told was…
- With countable and uncountable nouns.
The exam was the up to date version.
The Milk had gone off.
The Indefinite Article
A or An
- We use this when we want to refer to a general idea rather than a particular thing.
For example. Shall I bring a cake with me when I come to dinner?
The question refers to any type of cake.
- We use a or an for singular countable nouns.
There is a student in my class who has an outstanding personality.
The meal they had was at a five star restaurant.
The general rule for choosing between a or an is if the next word is a vowel then you use AN if it’s a consonant then you use A.
As with all rules in English there are exceptions.
A good example of this is, University.
Even though it begins with a vowel we use the indefinite article a.
Because the U is not pronounced using the vowel sound.
Other examples are unicycle, user, unique and United.
Another exception is words that begin with H such as hotel.
Because the H is silent, and the next letter is a vowel then we use an.
For example: An hour, An honour.
Hopefully these tips will help you to easily remember which article to use!!