"A", "an" and "the"

Not all languages use articles (a, an, the) and some don’t use them the same way they are used in English. Lets look at how we use them with some examples to help.

“A” and “an” mean 1, so we only use these with nouns we can count. 1 pen, 3 pens for example. I have “a” pen means I have 1 pen. It is also not specific, a pen could be any pen. Because “a” means 1 it is incorrect to say “I have a 3 pens.” If the noun is plural (more than 1) we don’t use a. We only use A or AN when we are talking about 1 thing. We use “an” with words that start with a vowel (A, E, I, O, U) or  a vowel sound. For example the word “hour” does not begin with a vowel (the first letter is “h”) but the sound is like the letter “O” so we say “an hour.” 1 hour. Here are a few more examples:
“He is an honest guy.” “This is an historic building. It was built 280 years ago.”

In English we use a for things we haven’t talked about yet, or things in general. We use the for things we have already talked about, or things that are specific. For example: “I went to a restaurant in Shinjuku last Friday.” This means any restaurant, one of many in  Shinjuku. 
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“I went to the sushi restaurant next to the convenience store in front of Takadanobaba station.” This is specific and only can mean one restaurant. We can see in this sentence that we use the for convenience store because it is also specific, the convenience store is the one in front of Takadanobaba.

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