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English Grammar: How to Use A, An and The

Read about using these important little words. Practice reading paragraphs.

Then learn more details about When to Use Them and When Not to Use Them.

The Basics: Using A and An

Use “a” and “an” before single nouns. Use “an” if the noun begins with a vowel sound. Use “a” before consonant sounds. “A/an” often means “one.” It also refers to unknown, not particular or general things.

Pronunciation tip: Most people know that “a” is said 2 ways, either “uh” or the name of the letter “A.” To lessen an accent, say “uh” most of the time as this sounds more informal and natural. Say “A” when you want to draw attention to something. Always blend “a” and “an” with the word that follows.


DO NOT use “a” or “an” with noncount nouns such as “milk,” “water,” or “air.” Noncount nouns are nouns that are in a form that is not easy to count, such as liquids. You CAN use "the" with noncount words, i.e. "the milk is over there," "the water is blue."

The Basics: Using The

  • Use “the” for singular or plural nouns that are known, understood to be known or particular, specific.
  • Often prepositional phrases or adjective phrases show a noun is known, as in “the people in that room” or “the man that left early.”
  • Also use “the” when a noun has already been mentioned. “They had a baby. The baby is beautiful.”
  • Do not use “the” after “there is” or “there are.”
  • Do not use the when the number of things is unknown or unstated. "Yes, I have brothers." (Do not say, "yes, I have the brothers.") "The tree has red leaves." (not, "the tree has the red leaves.")


Pronunciation tip: Again, people sometimes say “thee” and sometimes “thuh.” Say “thuh” most of the time in order to sound at home with the language. Say “thee” when something/someone is important. For “the,” you can also use the consonant/vowel rule. Say “thee” before words that start with vowel sounds and “the” in front of words that begin with consonants. If that’s too much, though, just say “thuh” most of the time. Practice with Some Writings about Business with A/An/The Explanations.

Read about other common writing errors and English writing classes.

Get more practice with English Pronunciation News report with A, An, The.

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