For many English learners, it is difficult to remember when to use the English articles a, an, and the!
Mastering when to use articles will help you speak more naturally and fluently, especially when you are talking about one of something.
In this English grammar lesson, you’ll learn when to use a and an or the when you are talking about one of something.
1. One of something
When you talk about one of something, it’s much more natural and more common to use a or an instead of saying one. You can replace one with a/an. It’s not wrong to say one, it just doesn’t sound natural.
How long does it take you to get to work?
~ It takes about an hour.
It takes about one hour.)
Can I borrow a dollar?
I went shopping today! I bought a pair of pants and a new shirt!
My parents just bought a new house!
Does he have any pets?
~ Yes, he has a dog.
Does Mary have any children?
~ Yes, she has a son and a daughter!
NOTE: A and an are only used with singular, count nouns! Don’t use a or an with non-count nouns.
I am looking for an information.
2. Only one of something exists
If only one of something exists in the world, then use the:
Look at all of the stars in the sky tonight!
In 1969, the United States was the first country to put a man on the moon.
the sun, the moon, the Earth
The Earth revolves around the sun, while the moon revolves around the Earth
the United Nations
The headquarters of the United Nations is in New York City.
The government has increased taxes again this year.
(Usually there is only one government at a time, whether it is the government of a country, state, or city.)
LEARN MORE: English Grammar: When NOT to use “the”!
3. Fixed expressions
There are some fixed expressions where you need to use one and you can’t use a instead.
One of (something)
One of my friends is from Australia!
(You can’t say
a of my friends)
…but you can say:
A friend of mine is from Australia!