“A / An / The”

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Welcome to your “A / An / The” lesson! In this topic we talk about:
• When are “A / An / The” used?
Talking about specific things
More rules
Special expressions
Take the quizzes when you’re ready! If you’re having problems, use the comment box to contact our English Teachers.

When are “A / An / The” used?

Have a look at this sentence:

“I had a sausage and an egg for breakfast, the sausage was nice but the egg was horrible.”

Notice that in the first half of the sentence the speaker used “a/an”, this is because it was the first time that the objects were mentioned. In the second half the speaker used “the”, this is because the objects have already been mentioned. Here are some more examples:

My brother owns a car and a motorbike, sometimes he uses the car, sometimes he uses the motorbike.”

We had a nice weekend at the beach. We spent the whole weekend relaxing.”

Talking about specific things

‘The’ is used when we are thinking of a specific thing:

You don’t have a pen? You can take a pen from the table.”
(one of many pens)

You don’t have a pen? You can take the pen on the table.”
(only one pen)

 

Have you got a swimming pool?
(not a specific swimming pool)

I cleaned the swimming pool this morning.”
(a specific swimming pool)

 

I’m looking for a job.”
(any job)

I didn’t get the job I applied for.”
(a specific job)

More rules

The is also used when it is clear which thing or person we mean.

Can you turn on the light please?
(the light in this room)

I waited for her at the station.”
(the closest station)

(in a school)
I’d like to speak to the head teacher, please.

(the head teacher of this school)

We also say “the bank”, “the shop” etc:

“I have to go to the bank and the shop this morning.”

We also say “the doctor”, “the dentist” etc:

“She wasn’t well so she went to the doctor.”
(her usual doctor)

“Her tooth was aching so she went to the dentist.”
(her usual dentist)

Compare “a” and “the” in these pairs of sentences:

“My back hurts, I’m going to see the doctor.”

“My wife is a doctor.”

 

“My tooth hurts, I’m going to see the dentist.”

“Is there a dentist near here?”

Special expressions

We say “once a week” / “three times a year” / “€2 a kilo” etc:

“The tomatoes are only €2.50 a kilo.”

“I work four days a week.”

“They go on holiday twice a year.”

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