Grammar For IELTS: A, An, The (Part 2)

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Continuing the previous Grammar For IELTS post, today, we will learn how to use the article “THE” and when no article is needed before a noun in English.

1. Definite Article THE

The definite article is the. Use the with definite singular, plural, and noncount nouns. Use the to indicate that you are referring to something specific. Here are the main rules for definite articles.

  • Use the to refer to a specific thing or person. This includes nouns made specific by prepositional phrases or adjective clauses.

   Specific: The window in the kitchen has been closed all day.

General: A window is usually rectangular in shape. (= Windows are usually rectangular in shape.)

 Specific: The pilots who work for that airline will go on strike at midnight.

General: A pilot wears a uniform. (= Pilots wear a uniform.)

  • Use the for the second and all subsequent references to the same item. Note that sometimes different nouns are used to refer to the same thing. Using a variety of vocabulary items with the article the is an excellent device for coherence in your writing.
A deadly car crash (noun A—first reference) involving three vehicles (noun B—first reference) occurred on Highway 62 last night. Police said that the wreck (noun A—second reference) happened just after midnight. Though damage to the three cars (noun B—second reference) appeared to be minimal, the accident (noun A—third reference) claimed two lives.

Crash -> wreck -> accident: Notice how crash becomes wreck and then becomes accident. Vehicles -> cars: Vehicles becomes cars. These different words still refer to the same original thing, and the article changes from indefinite (a) to definite (the).

  • Use the with a superlative, with a ranking, or with a comparison between amounts.

Many sports offer good exercise, but tennis is the best sport for people of all ages.

The third part of any joke is usually the punch line.

The more time you spend editing, the more corrections you’ll make.

  •  Use the with the parts of something or members of a group.

I like this watch. The minute hand is blue, and the hour hand is red.

Today the small-business owner finds it hard to compete against superstores.

The is used to talk about a body part in a more formal way, for example, in science or health discussion.

The stomach contains special liquids to help with digestion.

However, when we are referring to our own bodies, we use possessive adjectives, not the.

 My stomach hurts because I ate all the chocolates.

  • Use the when the item is known to both the writer and the reader (or to the speaker and the listener), when the context makes it clear, or when there is only one possible item.

Rick: Where’s your phone?

Cara: It’s next to the refrigerator,

  • Use the in general statements about a whole species (kind), class, or category.

 The Apple computer was not developed by Bill Cates.

 The green sea turtle is on the threatened and endangered list.

More medicine is needed for the sick. (the sick = sick people)

The use of the + SINGULAR NOUN is more formal than the more conversational style of using plural + no article.

 The tiger is native to India, (formal)

 Tigers are native to India, (less formal)

  • Use the with unique, one-of-a-kind items (especially when talking about nature).

The sun is shining directly overhead.

Take a look at the sky! The clouds are moving fast today.

There’s nothing you can do to change the past, so plan for the future.

  • Use the with certain proper nouns: oceans; seas; rivers; groups of islands, lakes, mountains; deserts; plural names of countries; areas identified by direction words; buildings; schools with of /for; and sports teams.

the Atlantic Ocean/        the Hawaiian Islands/          the United States

 the Sears Tower/            the University of Texas/       the Academy for the Arts

 the Boston Red Sox/      the North

2. No Article

In English, articles are not always necessary with nouns. Here are the main rules indicating when no article is needed before a noun.

  • No article is needed when you are referring to the whole group, class, or category.

Most people agree that more tax money should be spent on education.

We need to buy furniture for the new house.

Tigers are native to India.

  • No article is needed when you are referring to a thing in general, rather than to a specific member of a group.

The most popular subjects are English, Math, and World History.

Love is easier for some people to express than for others.

I’ve never been interested in studying nature.

  Beaches offer a place to play or to relax.

Exception: Use an article when you refer to a specific kind within a general thing.

I understand English well, but I sometimes have difficulty understanding the English spoken by young children.

The love he felt for his children couldn’t be measured in words.

He developed a sudden interest in the nature of rainforests.

The beach he runs on is pure white sand.

  • No article is needed with names of cities, states, countries, and continents. Exceptions include place names with the words united, union, or republic of, as well as plural names.
    New York Florida France Argentina Asia North America
  • No article is needed with a (single) lake, but use the with all other bodies of water.

(Exception: the Great Salt Lake)

Lake Michigan Lake Tikal Lake Okeechobee Lake Victoria
  • No article is needed with directions, but use the with areas identified by direction words.

Go north on the highway. I live south of the city.

He lives in the South, (the southern part of the U.S.)

  •  No article is needed with diseases:
    HIV AIDS cancer cholera heart disease diabetes

Some exceptions to this rule include the following:

the flu the measles the mumps the chicken pox

Use a with injuries, symptoms, and other nondiseases:

a cold a headache a heart attack a broken leg
  • No article is needed with the names of people, businesses, and most magazines.

 Dr. Jenk’s office is next to Brenda’s office.

Microsoft has its head office in the state of Washington.

I just bought a subscription to Newsweek.

Exception: With a person’s title that has no proper name, use the article.

This is the President.

  • No article is needed with months, dates, days, holidays, or seasons.

Christmas is December 25th.

We travel to California every winter.

Exception: Use the with dates in a phrase using the preposition of

   The 12th of August

  • No article is needed with chapters, numbers, highways, and interstates.

Please read Chapter 8 for tomorrow and answer question number 15.

Can you tell me whether Highway 60 will take me to Interstate 95?

  • No article is needed with commonplace words in certain idiomatic expressions. No article implies that an activity is taking place at that location; the refers to the place of the activity.

He is at home now. (NOT at the home)

He’s at work. (NOT at the work)

Marguerite is still in bed. (NOT in the bed)

They’re on vacation. (NOT on the vacation)

Hope this post could help you increase your writing also speaking skills in the IELTS Test. Don’t forget to check out our website ( to find more tips about the IELTS Test.

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Written By

Nafia Zuhana is an experienced content writer and IELTS Trainer. Currently, she is guiding students who are appearing for IELTS General and Academic exams through With an 8.5 score herself, she trains and provides test takers with strategies, tips, and nuances on how to crack the IELTS Exam. She holds a degree in Master of Arts – Creative Writing, Oxford Brookes University, UK. She has worked with The Hindu for over a year as an English language trainer.

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