Definite / Indefinite Article (A/an and The )

Definite / Indefinite Article Explanation

Talking About Unclear Things With Indefinite Articles

We use indefinite article 'a/an' when our listener or audience does not know which thing we mean. On the contrary, we use definite article 'the' when it is clear which thing we mean. Let's see the following examples :

  • Dan sat down on a chair. ( We don't know which chair. )
  • For breakfast I had an  egg. The egg was very small. ( The speaker says an egg because it is the first time he talks about it. Then, the speaker says 'the egg' because the listener has already known which egg the speaker means.)

Talking About Obvious Things With Definite Articles

We use definite article 'the' when it is clear in the situation which thing or person we mean such as "the light/ the floor/ the ceiling/ the door/ the carpet/ the wall" in a certain room the speaker and listener are sure of. Let's see the following examples :
  • Can you open the door, please ? ( the door of this room )
  • Where's the toilet, please? ( the toilet in this building )
  • She rides a motorbike to the station. ( the station of that town )
We also say : the police, the postman, the airport, the fire-brigade, the army, the doctor, the dentist, the bank, the post office.

The Difference Between Article a and an

There is a quite clear difference between a and an. A is used before consonants  ( b, c, d, f, g, h, etc. ). An is used before vowels ( a, i, u, e, o).
 a car
 a book
 a house
 a university

 an egg
 an aeroplane
 an artist
 an iron
 an owl
 an ipad
 an hour

Note : university is pronounced /yuniversiti/. That's why, it is treated as consonant. So, we do not say or write an university. On the contrary, hour is pronounced /aue:/. It is treated as vowel. So, we do not say or write a hour.

Definite / Indefinite Article Exercise

In this exercise you have choose a, an or the to complete the sentences!
  1. We live in ... old house in Bandung.
  2. I need ... egg.
  3. Did ... police catch the burglar ?
  4. Have you got ... car?
  5. I like ... car you drive every day.
  6. Where's ... station, please?
  7. Can I turn on ... light?
  8. How often do you see ... dentist?
  9. I'm going to ... bank to transfer some money to my son.
  10. Can you hear ... man talking to ... woman outside the door?

Grammar Books