Practical Use of Articles 

Articles are the words that define a noun specific or unspecific. In English, there are two types of articles:

  • Definite article

  • Indefinite article 

Indefinite articles are  'a' and 'an', definite article is 'the'. They have become very complicated part of English grammar because of so many rules of their usage. However, a few most important rules can be useful for general purpose, and the logic of these rules can be helpful for your IELTS essay writing. This page will discuss the most essential practices of Articles. 

Articles: Important Rules and Their Uses

Do not use 'A' and 'An' with an uncountable noun. Use these with singular countable nouns.

Example:

Do you need an apple? (Singular countable noun)

In fact, you cannot use singular countable nouns alone. You have to use either 'a' or 'an' or 'the' with singular countable nouns.

However, you can use plural countable nouns and also uncountable nouns alone.

Example:

Do you need apples? (Plural countable noun)

I have to eat rice everyday. (Uncountable noun)

Use 'some' and 'any' with plural countable nouns and with uncountable nouns. Don't use 'some' and 'any' with singular countable nouns.

Example:

He bought some eggs. (Plural countable noun)

Did he buy any eggs? (Plural countable noun)

He is listening to some music. (Uncountable noun)

Did you want to buy any orange juice? (Uncountable noun)

Remember, uncountable noun is always singular. Don't use 'a' and 'an' with an uncountable noun. For example, tea, coffee, milk etc. are uncountable nouns, as you cannot count these stuffs. 

Example:

I love coffee. (Uncountable noun)

I want to buy some milk tonight. (Uncountable noun)

However, there are some mechanisms where you can use article 'a' with an uncountable noun. If you mean a cup of coffee, a glass of milk, a cup of tea, a glass of juice etc. then you can use article 'a'/'an' with uncountable nouns. 

Example:

Please buy a coffee for me. (By coffee you are meaning a cup of coffee)

Can I have an apple juice? (By juice you are meaning a bottle of juice) 

The words in the following list are usually uncountable nouns:

IELTS Vocabulary

Practical examples of some important article uses

If you want to use articles confidently, spend some time here in the following discussion. I guarantee you, it will be a boost in your confidence after reading everything below in this page. Let's start:

Use "travel", not "a travel". 

But you can use "a journey/ a trip"

Work is uncountable, but job is a countable noun. Therefore, you can use a/an with the word job, not with the word work.

If you mean something specific, use the. As in:

He is working on a table. (on one of the many tables in the room, not a specific table.)

He is working on the table next to the door. ( Not any table, a specific table that is next to the door.)

Overall, if you mean something specific, use the. 

If you say I'm going to a bank (any bank)

If you say I'm going to the bank (that means you are implying a specific bank, may be the bank where you always go, or may be the bank that you have just mentioned little while ago.)

As in: Is there any bank here in this city? I need to go to the bank today.

Remember, you must use the before anything unique. For example: The capital of a country, the earth, the moon, the sun, the sky, the universe, the equator etc.

You need to use as:

The sea, the same, the ground, the cinema, the theatre. 

If you use an adjective to talk about a group of people, use the before that adjective. For example:

The unemployed, the homeless, the sick, the injured, the rich, the poor, the elderly, and the old etc. As in: The rich should play some important roles for social well beings. (You are not meaning any specific rich person. You are implying the whole community of rich people.)

If you add another noun after these adjectives, you need to use a/an for one person. As in: A rich person should play some important roles for social well beings.

You need to use the with the names of ocean, seas, rivers and canals. As in: The Nile, the Indian Ocean.

Use the  when you use a name with of. For example: The Great Wall of China, the University of Cambridge etc.

You can check these resources: