There are three articles in English: A, an and the. These articles have different uses and we use each of these in different places. Let’s look at some of their important and common uses:


A and an are called indefinite articles. This is because they do not refer to anything or anyone specific. Following are different places we use a and an.

A: Used with singular countable nouns that start with a consonant sound.

Ex: A man.

The muh sound in the word man is a consonant sound. Hence, the article a has been used with the noun man.

An: Used with singular countable nouns that start with a vowel sound.

Ex: An umbrella.

The uh sound in the word umbrella is a vowel sound. Hence, the article an has been used with the noun umbrella.

Remember, singular countable nouns will NEVER go alone in a sentence. They must ALWAYS be accompanied by either a or an.

{Also, we NEVER use a or an with uncountable nouns. For example, you cannot say,

I had a water in his house.

You should say,

I had water in his house.}

Apart from the above distinction in terms of  their usage, the following uses apply to both a and an:

1) When talking about someone or something unknown or unspecific for the first time.

Ex: I saw a man who was shivering on the sidewalk. The man had no one with him.

See, the man we’re talking about here is unknown to us. He is some man. We don’t know him. When we first mentioned the man, we used a. After that, we used the.

A crow rested on the wall for some time and flew away. The crow looked a bit tired.

2) When describing someone or something.

Ex: He is a tall man.

Paris is a big city.

3) When talking about someone’s occupation.

Ex: I am a doctor.

She is an engineer.


The is a definite article. This is because it always refers to something specific. Unlike a and an, the can be used with both singular and plural countable nouns. It can also be used with uncountable nouns.

Let’s look at different situations when it’s used:

1) We learned that when we talk about something or someone unknown or unspecific for the first time, we should use a or an, right? Now, the next time we talk about the same, we use the.


A priest was preaching at the end of the street. The priest was dressed in white.

You see, we used a the first time we mentioned priest. The second time, we used the.

2) When both the speaker and the listener know who or what exactly the speaker is referring to.

Ex: Please pass me the laptop.

The city has lost a great leader.

3) When talking about someone or something specific. When this is done, extra words are used to describe who or what exactly we’re talking about.

Ex: The man on the stage is my friend.

Lindsey sold the car she bought last year.

In the first sentence, the words on the stage tell us which man the speaker is talking about. As it’s a specific man, the is used.

Similarly, the words she bought last year tell us which car the speaker is referring to. Hence, we used the as it’s a specific car.