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.
LEARN MORE: English Grammar: How to use definite and indefinite articles
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!
Hello! Thank you for giving us an opportunity to learn about articles. I have a qustion. When we speak of a period which has its beginning and end, we use the word 'time.' For example,
I stayed there for a long time.
In this sentence is it wrong to omit 'a'?
All the best for Christmas!
"A long time" is a fixed expression! It needs the 'a.' Without 'a,' it is meaningless. This is also true of "a short time."
Thank you for taking the time to comment! I hope you have a lovely Christmas as well = )
Which article should I write before the words such as: university, European, unit ?
1. ‘University’ is a noun. If you are using it in a general sense, then you don’t need an article:
“I studied languages at university.”
However, sometimes ‘university’ is part of the name:
“I studied at The University of Chicago.”
Use ‘a’ if you are talking about any university:
“I am looking for a university that offers a degree in environmental science.”
2. ‘European’ is an adjective. Articles are not used with adjectives:
“She is European.”
The article depends on the noun the adjective is describing:
The European Union (see #2 in the post above)
“Italy is a European country.”
3. There is nothing special about the word ‘unit,’ so the usual grammar rules apply. Did you have a specific sentence in mind?
Melanie, could you please clarify the rule which I saw in Oxford Grammar and can’t find the explanation for. It mentioned that we use “the” with cinema, theatre and newspaper. As for the cinema and theatre, I understand, but what about the newspaper? Do we use it with a definite article only in a certain sense? In which sense then? A source of information? As far as I know we use articles with this noun (newspaper) according to the situation. It can be a newspaper, the newspaper, or newspapers with zero article. Where’s this rule from? It’s very confusing for me and many Russian students.
Thanks in advance!
Sometimes there is no explanation for an English ‘rule.’ Sometimes the only explanation is “because that’s the way it is.”
Your understanding is correct:
“As far as I know we use articles with this noun (newspaper) according to the situation. It can be a newspaper, the newspaper, or newspapers with zero article.”
Which rule are you talking about when you say: “could you please clarify the rule which I saw in Oxford Grammar and can’t find the explanation for.” Which Oxford Grammar book? If you could tell me the book & page number, I can try to explain the rule.
teacher you say “a/an are only used
with singular, countable nouns!” but sometimes i saw indefinite article with education and knowledge..like “a education and a knowledge”…teacher could u tell me how is it possible??
That’s a good question!
‘Education’ and ‘knowledge’ both have uncountable & countable definitions:
Can you please tell me which of these sentences is correct?
She holds a position of a trademark assistant.
She holds the position of trademark assistant.
“She holds the position of trademark assistant.” is correct.
Thank you very much for your response.
One more and last question about articles. Is ”THE” always used with ”of phrase”. Namely, are the following examples correct?
THE name of a/the street,
THE title of a/the book,
THE colour of a/the wall,
Yes, all of your examples are correct!
Hello dear teacher. I have got simple for you. the question is. is it possible to use article before or after the words are adjective. I read somewhere that using of articles with adjective impossible.What is your mind about it? if I have mistake in my sentence please correct it. Your faithful apprentice from unknown plase. Shohijahon.
sorry the word of question missing in the second Clause.
I wrote this; ” we have to submit to the technology, and there’s no way to escape”.
Somebody corrected me saying “the” is not needed. I want t know why.
It depends. Are you talking technology in general? Or are you talking about a specific piece of technology, like a mobile phone, the Internet, robots, AI, or something else?
If you are talking about technology in general, then you don’t use the.
“We have to submit to technology, and there’s not way to escape.”
Read more about why you don’t need the here:
Abdallah Musa Abdallah says
I noticed that you said (a European )
does it mean we just deal with the starting sound of words and not the letter ? if so is it correct to say (an MCQs test)?
secondly would mind checking my comment for mistakes ?
with my appreciation !
Use “quotation marks” when you write an example sentence. Don’t use (parenthesis). I have rewritten your comment for you so that you can see the difference:
I noticed that you wrote “a European.” Does that mean we just deal with the starting sound of words and not the letter? If so, is it correct to say “an MCQ test”?
You are correct! Use an when the next word starts with a vowel sound. European starts with the Y consonant sound, so you don’t need to use an. MCQ begins with a vowel sound, so you need an!