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THE INDEFINITE ARTICLE
Use an before vowels: an (but not when ‘u’ or ‘e’ produces a ‘y’ sound: a useful tool, a European student, a university). When ‘h’ is silent, use an: an hour, an honest man, etc. A or an is used: with singular countable nouns mentioned for the first time: A blue car came round the corner. A strange man with a black beard walked through the door. to express rates: He drove at 50 kilometres an hour. She earns $100,000 a year. The indefinite article is not used with uncountable nouns or plural countable nouns: More women go to university in Spain than man. Knowledge makes people powerful.
THE DEFINITE ARTICLE The is used:
with things we have mentioned before or it’s clear who or what we are referring to from the context: I’ve got a new teacher. The teacher is from California. Could you go to the bank for me, please? (i.e. the bank we always use) with things which are unique: the internet, the moon, the sun with adjectives to express groups: In this country, the rich are growing richer and the poor are growing poorer. with nationalities: the French, the Spanish, the Italians (Note: Nationality adjectives ending in –sh, -ch, -ese, and –ss have a singular form but are plural in meaning: the English drink a lot of tea, the Chinese are very hard-working. Other nationality adjectives have a plural form and a plural meaning: I think the Brazilians are going to win the World Cup again.)
with superlatives: the best, the longest, etc. with the first, the second, the third used as adjectives: Manolo won the first prize and Igor won the second. with names of countries which include these words: republic, kingdom, united, union, emirates: The United States of America, The Czech Republic, The United Kingdom, etc. with names of rivers, mountain ranges, seas and oceans: the Nile, the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Pacific
ZERO ARTICLES (OMISSION OF ARTICLES)
Do not use articles: with proper, abstract, and material nouns: London, honesty, love, ice when talking in general and in plural: Teachers are not paid enough. I can’t imagine offices without computers. with the names of days, holidays, seasons, months What do you do on Sundays? The exam is in June.
with the names of games and sports: He plays basketball.
with the names of meals when talking in general: Breakfast is the most important meal for me. BUT if we think of a food or specific meal, ‘the’ is used: The breakfast is ready. with many common expressions: in/to bed, to church, at home, in/to hospital, in/to prison, at/to school, at/to university, at/to work He’s in bed. I’m at university. What time do you go to work? She’s been taken to hospital.
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