English Articles: When to Use A, An, or The

English Articles: When to Use A, An, or The

A common problem for English learners is knowing when to use English articles, or the words “a” or “an” or “the.” Here are some easy tips to help you remember when to use A, An, or The.

Büşra Bayram
Büşra Bayram (photo by Matt Cates)

If you have a bad habit of using the wrong words, or if you are not sure–just stop before you use one of these words, and think about it before you speak.

I know, it’s not easy to pause like that, but you have to break bad habits if you have them…and learn good habits as soon as you can!

Okay, here we go!


If you are speaking about a specific object, then you usually use the word THE. Remember, an object is a THING, not a person or place

Here are some examples:

Give me THE phone. 

Where is THE book?

Where are THE keys?

Who is THE man in the blue coat?

What is THE name of that movie?

These are all SPECIFIC; they are referring to a certain thing, not just any random thing. Let me explain more by giving some examples of when to use A…


Do you have A phone?

Where can I find A book store?

Have you got A key?

Is there A man out there?

Did you see A movie this weekend?

Do you see the difference? The article THE is used for a very specific object; the article A is used when we are not talking about a specific thing…


What about the English article AN? Well, A and AN are the same thing, but you’ll generally use AN when the word after it starts with a vowel instead of a consonant (Vowels are A, E, I, O, and U)….

For example:

Do you have AN orange?

Where can I find AN antique store?

Have you got AN iPhone?

Is there AN old man out there?

Did you see A movie this weekend?

But one problem is, we don’t always use AN with the vowel U. For example:

Have you got A used shirt I can have? is correct.

Have you got AN used shirt…is wrong!

But…Have you got AN undershirt I can have? is correct!

Why? Who knows? That’s English for you!!! For a deeper look into the reasons, visit here!

For more English lessons, visit our these articles on our site!

Learn Basic English for Free: Lesson 1

Basic English Lesson 2: Gender Pronouns

1000 Most Common English Words

And don’t forget, we’re on Facebook and YouTube!

Busra Bayram
Busra Bayram


Matt Cates

Matt Cates is the co-founder and creative director of Mad English Lab.

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