playing with letters

Articles

Definition

The” is one of the most common words in English. If you want to refer to a specific person, place or thing, you can use “the” before the noun to identify that particular object. For example:

  • We went to the
  • The classroom was quiet.
  • The computer is broken.

In these sentences, “the” is helping to define a specific park, classroom and computer. By contrast, rather than referring to a particular noun, “a” and “an” can refer to it in general:

  • I need a
  • Would you like an apple before dinner?
  • There was a loud knock on the door.

The exact pen, apple and knock are not identified in these examples and that lack of certainty is expressed by the use of “a” or “an”.

These determiners are known as the definite and indefinite articles. The definite article in English is the word “the”. The indefinite article is “a” or, if next word begins with a vowel sound, “an”. Of course, there are some complex rules to follow but we usually learn these variations through experience and without much instruction.

Complete the following exercises and check your responses with the suggested answers at the bottom of the page.

Exercise One

In your notebooks, add an appropriate article to the sentence. Leave the space blank if no article is needed.

  1. I want to build __________ snowman.
  2. She borrowed __________ pencil from my case.
  3. Cardiff is __________ capital of Wales.
  4. __________ apple a day keeps the doctor away.
  5. That was __________ horrible experience.
  6. It was __________ honour to represent my school at the debating competition.
  7. __________ shop on the corner is open late on a Sunday night.
  8. Despite evidence to the contrary, __________ teacher is __________ intelligent man.
  9. I have __________ dog.
  10. We are going to see __________ Roman Coliseum tomorrow.
  11. I would love to climb __________ Mount Everest.
  12. Einstein proposed _________ Theory of General Relativity.
  13. Can I have __________ yoghurt, please?
  14. I have __________ idea.
  15. It is __________ unfortunate coincidence.
  16. It was __________ very strange day.
  17. She wants to study __________ medicine.
  18. This is __________ tallest building in the world!
  19. “I haven’t finished __________ last chapter of __________ book,” she said just before her brother could spoil the ending.
  20. I would like to learn to play __________ trumpet.

Exercise Two

In your own words, describe the difference between the following two sentences:

“Close the window!” the teacher shouted.
“Close a window!” the teacher shouted.

Suggested Answers

  1. I want to build a snowman.
  2. She borrowed a pencil from my case.
  3. Cardiff is the capital of Wales.
  4. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
  5. That was a horrible experience.
  6. It was an honour to represent my school at the debating competition.
  7. The shop on the corner is open late on a Sunday night.
  8. Despite evidence to the contrary, the teacher is an intelligent man.
  9. I have a dog.
  10. We are going to see the Roman Coliseum tomorrow.
  11. I would love to climb Mount Everest.
  12. Einstein proposed the Theory of General Relativity.
  13. Can I have a yoghurt, please?
  14. I have an idea.
  15. It is an unfortunate coincidence.
  16. It was a very strange day.
  17. She wants to study medicine.
  18. This is the tallest building in the world!
  19. “I haven’t finished the last chapter of the book,” she said just before her brother could spoil the ending.
  20. I would like to learn to play the trumpet.

Exercise Two – Explain the Difference Answers In the first sentence, the use of the definite article “the” suggests the teacher is referring to a specific window whereas the indefinite article “a” in the second sentence could refer to any window in the classroom.

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