IELTS grammar. Lesson 3: 'a', 'an' or 'the'?

Articles are the most common source of mistakes that IELTS test-takers make... This fact is not surprising! Probably every English language learner has faced this problem: "Which article to put? A, an or the?"

But don't let articles scare you! This topic is not so hard as you may think. In this lesson we'll explain you when to use a, an & the maximally clearly.

To master your articles skills, read theory in green box and complete exercises below.

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Use a and an only with a single noun:

  • when you talk about a noun for the first time: I saw a movie yesterday.
  • when you talk about non-specific things (a building, a sea, a president, a country, an office).

Use the with both single and plural nouns:

  • when you use the noun you mentioned before: I saw a movie yesterday. The movie was fantastic.
  • when you talk about something specific:
    • specific gallery - the National Gallery of Art,
    • specific university - the University of Madras,
    • specific tower - the Eiffel Tower.
  • with cardinal numbers (the first, the second)
  • with superlatives (the best, the biggest)
  • when the noun is only one in the world (the earth, the internet, the sun)
  • with countries that have plural names (the UK, the United States, the Netherlands)
  • in phrase the same as.

Don't use any articles:

  • when you talk in general
    • we believe in love,
    • woman is often responsible for child care (in general),
    • but Steve talks with the woman who has short blond hair (the specific woman).
  • with a single country or place (China, Fourth Street, Paris, Africa).
Tip: sometimes when you are unsure which article to use, you can use a possessive adjective (my / your / his / their) instead.
  • Emma found (an) her umbrella.

Practice. Choose the correct sentence in each pair:

  1. Wildlife in Africa is very diverse.
    Wildlife in the Africa is very diverse.

  2. The moon travels around the earth.
    Moon travels around the earth.

  3. You should give more examples in a second paragraph of your essay.
    You should give more examples in the second paragraph of your essay.

  4. Susy loves the children.
    Susy loves children.

  5. We bought a new cupboard.
    We bought the new cupboard.

  6. The table shows the number of marriages in Australia.
    The table shows number of marriages in Australia.

  7. I think that people should protect environment.
    I think that people should protect the environment.

  8. The number of cars on the roads is increasing.
    Number of the cars on the roads is increasing.

  9. In my opinion, the movies are more entertaining than the computer games.
    In my opinion, movies are more entertaining than computer games.

  10. London is capital of UK.
    London is the capital of the UK.

Complete the sentences using articles when necessary:

  1. A lot of children are accessing internet unsupervised.

  2. Last night I saw star and moon in sky.

  3. I was born in little town, but when I was 12 my family moved to capital.

  4. According to graph, number of working people has doubled.

  5. Although Ivan lives in Russia and Paul lives in Netherlands, they have a lot in common. Even Paul's favourite football team is same as Ivan's!