Indefinite Articles 'A' and 'An'

(1) Indefinite Article 'A'

The Indefinite Article 'a' means 'one'. It is used before a countable noun which starts with a consonant (one of the following letters: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y and z).

Examples: a bicycle, a fish, a house, a king, a lion, a pen, a queen, a towel, a watch, a zoo, etc.

I have a bicycle.

There is a house on top of the hill.

May I have a towel, please?

Jennifer's father gave her a watch on her birthday.

A lion roars.

I saw a fish in the stream.

Exceptional Case

A is also used before a noun or adjective which starts with the vowels 'u' and 'e' but sounds like the consonant 'y'.


a unit, a uniform, a European, a unicorn, a university, a unisex beauty shop, a used car, a useful tool, etc.

My brother is studying in a university in England.

I met a European on my way here.

James is going to buy a used car.

(2) Indefinite Article 'An'

The Indefinite Article 'an' also means 'one'. It is used before a countable noun which starts with a vowel (the letter a, e, i, o, or u).

Examples: an airplane, an acrobat, an elephant, an eel, an ice cream, an igloo, an owl, an orang-utan, an umbrella, an uncle, etc.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

I spoke with an American this morning.

The hunter shot an elephant.

Timmy had an ice cream yesterday.

I saw an ostrich on Uncle Joey's farm.

An uncle of mine is ill.

Exceptional Case

'An' is also used for a word which begins with a silent 'h'.


an hour, an heir / heiress, an honest person, an honor, etc.

I read for an hour in the library.

Mr. Kent is an honest man.

It's an honour to be invited here.


Both 'a' and 'an' are used before an occupation or a job.


a lawyer, a surgeon, a driver, a secretary, an accountant, an artist, an oculist, an author, etc.

My father is an attorney.

Samy wants to be a pilot when he grows up.

Olivia's uncle is studying to be a physician.

Definite Article 'The'

The Definite Article 'the' is used:

(1) when we talk about something that we have mentioned before.


I have a pen. The pen is blue.

Jason is reading a story. The story is very exciting.

He found a few old stamps in his basement. The stamps are valuable.

The rich man bought a diamond ring. He gave the ring to his wife.

Laura saw a beggar. The beggar was begging for money.

A snake entered my house last evening. The snake was a cobra.

(2) when we talk about a particular person or thing.


This is the dictionary that I bought yesterday.

I'm sorry for losing the pen that you lend me last week.

He is the man who won the first prize in a lucky draw.

Could you fetch me the apples that I bought from the supermarket?

The student who played hooky was punished by the principal.

Isn't she the actress who won an award recently?

(3) when there is only one such thing.

Examples: the earth, the sun, the moon, the sky, the sea, the South Pole, the world, the ground, the horizon, the West, the equator, the weather, the temperature, etc.

The earth is the only planet in the solar system that supports life.

An eagle is flying in the sky.

How's the weather like tomorrow?

The moon revolves round the earth.

The boy tripped over a stone and fell to the ground.

Is the tide coming in now?

(4) before names of rivers, seas, oceans, mountain ranges, groups of islands, deserts, gulfs, peninsulas and newspapers. It is also used before names of certain countries (especially plural names) and points on the globe.

Examples: the Amazon River, the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Himalayas Range, the Galapagos Islands, the Sahara Desert, the Iberian Peninsula, the Shanghai Daily, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Philippines, the equator, the North Pole, etc.

The Yangtze River is the longest river in China.

The Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands.

Have you ever been to the United States of America?

We visited the Grand Canyon last month.

The Pacific Ocean is the world's largest Ocean.

The Congo River is located in Africa.

(5) before superlatives.

Examples: the highest, the smallest, the fastest, the earliest, the best, the worst, the most successful, the most beautiful, etc.

Which is the fastest car on earth?

This is the most expensive watch in the shop.

I'd like to use the thickest dictionary on the shelf.

Your dog is the cutest pet I've ever seen.

December is the coldest month of the year.

The dolphin is one of the most intelligent creatures in the world.


No articles are needed for individual mountains (e.g. Mt. Fuji, Mt. Rushmore), names of games (e.g. basketball, chess) and names of roads (e.g. Santa Monica Boulevard, Kings Road).


Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Southeast Asia.

I like to play chess in my free time.

Cheryl's favorite games are basketball and netball.

I met John in High Street last week.

Mount Fuji is located in Japan.

There has been an accident on Strawberry Street.


A. Fill in the blanks with the articles 'a' or 'an'. Leave the blanks empty if no articles are needed.

1. __________ owl is __________ bird.

2. __________ snake slithers.

3. Mr. Gabriel is __________ security guard. He wears __________ uniform to work.

4. Lucy is peeling __________ apple with __________ knife.

5. James and Nicholas have been fishing by the river for __________ hour.

6. It looks like rain. You had better take __________ umbrella or __________ raincoat with you.

7. __________ blacksmith makes things out of __________ iron.

8. She puts __________ bouquet of flowers into the vase.

9. Paula is having __________ cold. She has gone to see __________ doctor.

10. __________ elephant has __________ trunk.

B. Fill in the blanks with the articles 'a', 'an' or 'the'. Leave the blanks empty if no articles are needed.

1. I have __________ Indian friend who comes from __________ India. He is __________ Hindu.

2. Jupiter is __________ largest planet in __________ solar system.

3. __________ wealthy man lives in a bungalow. __________ bungalow overlooks __________ sea.

4. My mother bought __________ necklace yesterday. She is going to wear __________ necklace to __________ dinner tonight.

5. __________ Mount Everest is __________ highest mountain in __________ world.

6. My brother and sister enjoy playing __________ Chinese chequers.

7. He is __________ first person to sail across __________ Atlantic Ocean.

8. This is __________ magazine that I told you about earlier.

9. I used to live on __________ High Street but now I live on __________ Crescent Road.

10. I went to see __________ movie last evening. __________ movie is about __________ man who was stranded on __________ island for four years before he was rescued by __________ captain of __________ ship.

C. Fill in the blanks with the articles 'a', 'an' or 'the'. Leave the blanks empty if no articles are needed.

1. I am __________ eldest child in my family.

2. __________ tailor is __________ person who makes __________ clothes for men.

3. __________ tourists are going to climb __________ Mt. Fuji tomorrow.

4. __________ porpoise is __________ sea mammal.

5. My mother is having __________ perm in __________ unisex beauty shop.

6. __________ orang-utan is __________ endangered species.

7. __________ bus journey takes half __________ hour.

8. That is __________ man who comes from __________ Korea.

9. After I had mopped __________ floor, I went out to play __________ baseball.

10. __________ heir is __________ person who has __________ legal right to receive another personís property when that person dies.



1. An, a

2. A

3. a, a

4. an, a

5. an

6. an, a

7. A, -

8. a

9. a, a

10. An, a


1. An, - , a

2. the, the

3. The, the, the

4. a, the, a

5. - , the, the

6. -

7. the, the

8. the

9. - , -

10. a, The, a, an, the, a


1. the

2. A, a, -

3. The, -

4. The/A, a

5. a, a/the

6. The, an

7. The, an

8. the, -

9. the, -

10. An, the, the