Using articles in English- more complex rules
NOTE: This is the third lesson for articles. If you have not completed level A1 and A2, we recommend you first look at these lessons:
Level A1 – articles (a, an and the) for Rules 1 to 4
Articles – rule #8
‘A’ or ‘an’ can be used when a single member is referred to but actually refers to the whole group.
- A doctor must be kind. (meaning all doctors / any doctor)
- A dog can make a very good pet. (meaning all dogs / any dogs)
Articles – rule #10
Sometimes we talk about things in general by using ‘the’ with a countable noun.
- The panda is an endangered species.
- Email is replacing the telephone as the most common way of communicating.
Articles – rule #11
Whether or not we use ‘the’ or Ø (no article) can sometimes depend on whether the speaker is describing a physical building or the purpose of a building.
- Jane is in Ø hospital for her operation. (No article here because we are referring to the purpose of a hospital – for surgery, health etc)
- Go straight along this street, turn left at the hospital and it’s just on the right (now we use the because we are NOT thinking about the purpose of the building, but a specific physical landmark).
- Other examples that follow this rule: Prison, school, church and university – almost any occasion where the name that describes the building also describes the function.
Articles – rule #12
The media also has similar rules. When we are referring to ‘a means of entertainment’ we use no article’ when we talk about the actual place or item, we use the.
- I’m going to the cinema (we are thinking of the actual place)
- Cinema is different from television in many ways (we are thinking of the types of media)
- The clock is on the television. (thinking of the actual tv set)
- There is too much violence on television. (thinking of the media)
Articles – rule #13
We use ‘the’ with:
- the names of seas (the Pacific, the Atlantic)
- mountain ranges (the Andes, the Himalayas)
- a few mountains when the name is translated (Das Matterhorn = The Matterhorn)
- countries made up of different islands (the West Indies)
- countries with state, union or republic (the People’s Republic of China, The United States)
- rivers (the Thames, the Mississippi)
- deserts (the Sahara, the Gobi)
- most hotels, cinemas, museums and art galleries (The Ritz, The Tate)
Articles – rule #14
We usually use Ø (no article) with:
- continents (Africa, Europe)
- countries (except countries made up of different islands)
- lakes (Lake Mead, Lake Placid)
- towns (Chester, Auckland)
- streets (Sunnyvale Road, Simmonds Street)
- most single mountains (Everest, Kilimanjaro)
- Nationalities (She is English. They are Canadian).
Click here to try the ‘Using articles in English- more complex rules’ exercises.