Grammar GuideArticlesWhen should I use a determiner such as 'a', 'an', or 'the'?

When should I use a determiner such as 'a', 'an', or 'the'?

When should I use a determiner such as 'a', 'an', or 'the'?

A, an, and the are types of determiner called 'articles' which introduce and provide context to a noun or noun phrase.

Articles are among the most common of the determiners. A, an, and the all express the definiteness and specificity of a noun.

The is a definite article, used to refer to a specific person, place, or thing. A and an are indefinite articles, used to refer to a general person, place, or thing.

Let's look at an example of each type.

Definite article

  • The boy is talking too loudly.

This sentence specifies a particular boy who is talking too loudly.

Indefinite article

  • A young child should never be left home alone.

This sentence refers to any young child because it is inappropriate in general for them to be left alone.