Choose the correct option to complete the sentences below.
When we mention something for the first time.
- I saw an old woman with a dog.
To say what kind of person or thing something/somebody is.
- That’s a chimpanzee.
- When I was a teenager, I enjoyed sleeping.
- Paula is a teacher.
When we mean ‘one’.
- Can I have an orange?
For frequency, rates and speeds etc.
- I work 6 hours a day, and I go to English classes three times a week.
- The rent is €500 a month.
- We were driving at 70 km an hour.
In the expressions what a/such a + singular countable noun.
- What a fantastic idea!
- Yesterday was such a horrible day!
- This is such a difficult problem!
- Thanks, you are such a good friend.
Note that you cannot use singular countable nouns alone (without a/the/my/etc.)
- I don’t have a driving license. (NOT
I don’t have driving license.)
- I have a car. (NOT
I have car.)
- When I was a teenager… (NOT
When I was teenager.)
With things or people already mentioned, or when we know which things or people we are talking about.
- A man and a woman sat in front me. The man was British, but I think the woman wasn’t.
- ‘Where are the kids?’ ‘They’re in the garden.’ (=Both speakers know which kids and which garden).
When a noun is made specific by details we give after it.
- I sat on a chair (maybe one of many).
- I sat on the chair in the corner.
- I saw the man who tried to rob me.
When there is only one of something: the earth, the moon, the planet, the internet, the universe, the sky, the city (=not the country), the country (=not the city), etc.
- I need to talk to the manager. (=There’s only one manager.)
- I’d like to live in this country, but not in the capital.
- The moon looks beautiful today.
With places in a town where we commonly go (the park, the cinema, the doctor, etc.)
- I’m going to the bank.
- I found Peter at the station.
- I’m at the library.
- This is the best restaurant in town.
With the names of oceans, seas, rivers and canals (the Mediterranean, the Amazon, the Panama canal, etc.).
Use no article
To describe something in general (with plural or uncountable nouns).
- Love and health are more important than money.
- Women drive more cautiously than men.
- I love music. (= music in general)
- The party was great. I loved the music. (=specific music)
With home, work, bed, hospital, school, university, prison when we speak in general (as the place used to live, work, sleep, be hospitalised, learn or be imprisoned.)
- David isn’t at school this morning. (=learning)
- She has been in bed all morning. (=sleeping or resting)
- Maria is in hospital. (=hospitalised, as a patient)
- They are going to send him to prison (=to be imprisoned)
But we use the article if we refer to these places just as places, or buildings; when they are not used for their main purpose.
- I found the keys under the bed.
- I’m going to the school to pick up my children.
- Yesterday I went to the hospital to visit my grandmother.
With names of meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
- Dinner is served at 8.
- I always have breakfast with my children.
With names of years, months and days of the week.
- Friday is my favourite day of the week.
- I think 2020 will be an excellent year.
With name + number.
- He is in room 15.
- Go to page 86.
With TV (when used as a broadcasting service, NOT as an appliance)
- I saw it on TV.
- I don’t watch TV.
But Turn off the TV. I’ve bought a new TV.
With next and last + time expression (when they mean before or after NOW)
- The meeting is next Thursday.
- I saw him last week.
But Last year we spend three weeks in London, and the last week was one of the best in my life. (=It does not mean ‘the week before NOW’)
With most names of places, such as continents (Europe, Africa, etc.), countries (Spain, China, etc.), cities or towns (Rome, Bangkok, etc.), mountains (mount Everest, Annapurna, etc.)
But names of countries that are plural or that include words such as State or Republic, or Kingdom are used with the: the US (the United States), the UK (the United Kingdom), the Philippines, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic.