Learn English grammar – A, An & The

Not all languages use articles the same way they are used in English so I thought we should look at A, AN & THE today.

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet. 5 of those letters are vowels. A,E,I,O and U.
The other 19 letters are consonants. (The letter Y is sometimes used as a vowel but don’t worry about that today)

A and AN = 1
A banana = 1 banana
*A is used with words that begin with a consonant or a consonant sound.
a movie, a sandwich, a university (U is a vowel but the word university sounds like YOU-NIVERSITY. Y is a consonant.)
An apple = 1 apple
*An is used with words that begin with a vowel or a vowel sound.
an octopus, an umbrella, an hour (H is a consonant but the word hour sounds like OUR. O is a vowel.)

SO we use A, AN when we talk about one thing, in general. One of many things.
BUT we use THE when we talk about a specific thing. Specific means one and only one, not one of many.

“Jim came to the meeting and sat in a chair.” = There are several chairs in the room, Jim sat in one of them (one of many) so we use a chair.
“Jim came to the meeting and sat in the chair beside the coffee machine.” = This time Jim sat in a specific chair, the chair beside the coffee machine. There is only one so we use the chair beside the coffee machine.

“Can I have an orange? Not that orange, the big one please.”
“Is there a meeting after work today?” “Yes but I can’t go, I have to go to the dentist.”
*For some subjects we use the every time if we talk about something that is specific. For example the dentist = your dentist, the (one) dentist you visit usually. The is used for things like:
the bank = my bank, the doctor’s office = my doctor, the supermarket = my usual supermarket, close to my house etc.

“I’ll take the big banana please.”

Leave a Reply