Grammar for IELTS Material : A, An, The (Part 1)

Grammar For IELTS material : A, An, The (Part 1)

Grammar for IELTS : A, An, The (Part 1)

There are two kinds of articles in English :

  • indefinite (a, an)
  • definite (the).

They occur before

  • nouns (the book)
  • adjective + noun combinations (a big book).

Grammar is essential to get a high band score for IELTS Examination especially, in the speaking and writing sections. Correct and proper grammar is one of the factors in which you will be assessed on during your IELTS speaking and writing tests.

Check Your Grammar

Choose the right article :

I’d been living in the / a / NONE dormitory for two years and hadn’t had to buy my own food for the / a / NONE whole time. Then, I moved into the / a / NONE apartment where I needed to buy the / a / NONE food for myself. I went to the / a / NONE grocery store and put everything into the / a / NONE cart. When I went to pay, I found that the / a / NONE juice I had chosen cost $1.50, the / a / NONE meat $7.80, the / a / NONE bread $1.25, and the / a / NONE butter $2.00.

If you can’t do the exercise, please go through our lesson about articles.

Article Basics

“A” and “An” are called indefinite articles because they usually don’t identify any particular person or thing.

E.g.: A musician, meaning any musician.

“The” is called the definite article because it refers to some specific thing.

E.g.: The musician (meaning some particular musician).

This chart gives you the basic uses of articles in English

Usage of Articles
Singular Countable NounPlural Countable NounsUncountable nouns
Indefinite articles (a, an)A bookBooksMilk
Indefinite articles (a, an)An elephantElephantsWater
Definite article (the)The bookThe booksThe milk

How to differentiate the usage ‘a’ and ‘an’ by sound ?

Indefinite articles (‘a’ and ‘an’)
Vowel soundAn enemy, An umbrella
Vowel sound where

consonant sound ‘h’ is silent

An Heir
Consonant soundA reindeer
Consonant sound (Yu)A University
Consonant sound (w)A one-rupee coin

When to use ‘The’ ?

Definite article (‘The’)
Reference to a specific objectThe book you want is out of print.
Singular noun representing a whole classThe cow is a useful animal.
Before proper nounsThe Pacific
Before names of things unique of their kindThe sky
Before proper noun when it is qualified by

an adjective

The immortal Shakespeare
Before superlativesThe richest man
Before an ordinalHe was the first one to reach…

Three Rules for Avoiding Common Article Mistakes

The following three rules are grouped here because they are the main rules that will help you avoid the most common mistakes with articles.

Rule 1. Use a, an (or another word such as my or this) with singular countable nouns.

  • Incorrect: Most university students own computer.
  • Correct: Most university students own a computer.

Rule 2. Use the with specific noun references, either singular or plural. Specific noun references are definite.

  • Incorrect: Title of this course sounds interesting.
  • Correct: The title of this course sounds interesting.
  • Incorrect: Questions in yesterday’s grammar test were difficult.
  • Correct: The questions in yesterday’s grammar test were difficult.

Rule 3. Do not use the with general noun references, either singular or plural. General noun references are indefinite.

  • Incorrect: Our government should spend more money on the education.
  • Correct: Our government should spend more money on education.
  • Incorrect: The successful presentations require planning and practice.
  • Correct: Successful presentations require planning and practice.

Indefinite Articles

The indefinite articles are ‘a’ and ‘an’. Use ‘a’ and ‘an’ with singular countable nouns.

  • Example of a singular countable noun:

a book, an orange.

Here are the main rules for indefinite articles.

  • Use ‘a’ and ‘an’ to introduce a singular countable noun.

Let’s take a speech class this semester.

There is an excellent show on TV tonight.

  • Use ‘a’ and ‘an’ to define or classify something.

Jambalaya is a rice dish that is native to south Louisiana.

My brother is an investigator for the city health department.

  • Use ‘a’ and ‘an’ to show that you are talking about one (of the item).

Excuse me. Do you have a pencil that I could borrow?

I need an eraser, as well.

  • Do not use ‘one’ interchangeably to mean ‘a’.

“Do you have one pencil?” emphasises the number, not the pencil.

  • Special time expressions: One is used before the day, week, month, and so forth, to refer to a particular time when something occurred, as in “One day I visited the new museum in town.”
  • Use ‘a’ and ‘an’ for a general truth about a singular countable noun in a group.

A piano has 96 keys.

A teacher should plan lessons.

The Omission of the Article

There are some instances where no articles should be used. They are:

Before uncountable nouns used in a

generic sense


Gold is a precious metal.
Before plural countable nouns used in a generic sense.


Children are mischievous.
Before most proper nouns.


Europe, Pakistan, Mount Everest
Before languages


They speak Spanish at home.
When places are used for their

primary purpose.


My uncle is still in hospital.
Before names of relations


Aunt wants to see you.


Before position that is normally held at

one time by one person.


He was elected chairman of the board.
In cases of transitive verbs followed by

its object.


To loose heart.
In cases where a preposition is followed by

its object.

By night, at dinner.

Repetition of the Article

Serial noUsage Interpretation
1I have a brown and white dog.I have a dog which is brown

and white in colour.

I have a brown and a white dog.I have two dogs. One is brown

in colour and another is white

in colour.

2The secretary and treasurer

is absent.

The secretary and treasurer are

the same person.

The secretary and

the treasurer is absent.

There are two persons. One of

them is a treasurer and another

is a secretary.

3He is a better mechanic

than clerk.

The two nouns mechanic and

clerk refers to the same person.

So, the article is used before

the first noun.

He is a better mechanic

than a clerk (would make).

There are two different persons.
Written By

Syed Monif is a professional content marketer and IELTS Trainer by day, and a bookworm by night, and sometimes during the day too! He currently works on creating extremely user-friendly and engaging content for the online portal His work involves creating and editing content while making sure they're super interesting and easy to read! And also as a master procrastinator, right now he's probably googling something so arbitrary like 'How rich is Scrooge McDuck?' without realizing that his lunch break is almost over.

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