- Indefinite article A / AN
As said before in countable nouns, these articles refer to singular form of countable nouns.
He's got a new car.
Take an umbrella in case it rains.
My brother is an engineer.
Indefinite articles A / AN describe anything in general, you've not specifying what car or what umbrella or what kind of engineer you're referring to.
Compare: A dog is a lot of work ( any dog at all )
The dog next door barks all day ( specific dog )
I'll meet you at the station ( Both people know what station is being mentioned here )
I'll try to find a station around here ( it can be any one )
Indefinite articles can be used to generalize, as the next sentences show:
A child is a lot of responsibility in a person's life ( = children are a lot of responsibility in ... )
A drugstore is a place to buy medicine ( = Drugstores are places to buy medicine )
- Definite article THE
Use the when the people in the conversation know exactly what we mean. It can be used with singular or plural nouns.
- Where's the parking lot ?
- We got to the station in time.
- Please, turn off the radio.
- Let me get the car.
- I love pizzas. The pizza at Antonino's is my favorite.
Use the in the situations below, as well:
1) The only one of a kind:
Brasilia is the capital of Brazil.
She bought the most beautiful dress of the shop.
He's the only friend I really trust.
The moon goes around the earth that goes around the sun.
The best in the world.
2) Use the with city / country, sea, sky..:
They could see many stars in the sky that night.
Do you prefer to live in the city in the country. ( but, she lives in a big city, in a small town )
They rented a small cottage by the sea. ( but he's at sea, when we mean on a trip there's no article )
The space wasn't enough for my furniture. ( But we say: The spaceship was lost in space. We don't use the with the idea of the universe )
3) Names of meals such as breakfast, lunch, dinner don't take the.
We had dinner at Amanda's.
What do you want for breakfast ? ( But we have a meal )
4) We can generalize using THE .
The motorcycle is a fast kind of transport. ( we mean the same as : motorcycles are a fast kind of transport )
5) We use the + an adjective when we mean a "class" of something, a group. The idea is plural.
The rich are afraid of the increasing violince. ( The rich people )
The young tend to be bold. ( The young people )
The wounded were transferred to the state hospital. ( The wounded people )
6) In the same way, we use the + nationality to show the idea of the people of that country.
The Swiss are known for their punctuality. ( The Swiss people )
The Japanese are inventive people. ( The Japanese people )
( Nationalities ending in SS , CH , SH and ESE are used in the singular )
The French cook really well.
( Other nationalities need plural form )
The Brazilians are famous for their soccer.
The Arabs have a very interesting culture.
7) Radio, internet, movies, tv, theater :
You go to the movies, to the theater.
You find information on the internet.
I heard this on the radio. ( but you watch something on TV )
8 ) Musical instruments :
Use the before musical instruments
- He plays the piano.
- Where did you learn to play the guitar ?
9) Superlatives :
The best hotel in town is Copacabana Palace.
It was the most interesting film of the festival.
10) In double comparatives :
The sooner you finish that, the better.
The more I study, the faster I learn.
11) Some places such as : School, college, university, prison, jail, church usually don't THE when they are used for the purpose they exist.
After writing some bad checks, he was sent to prison.
The kids are at school now.
We always meet at church on Sundays, when we go for the 11:00 mass.
( But Jack's mother went to the school to talk to the principal. The lawyer went to the prison to visit his client. In these cases the person doesn't belong to that place, so we use THE )
We don't use the before home or work either.
He's at home now.
Mom went to work.
12) Continents and countries don't take THE :
They came from Africa.
Helen went to Sweden.
The exception for countries is when the country has Republic, Union, United in its name or if it's a plural name.
Mr.Scott has traveled to the United States.
The company is based in the Soviet Union.
The Netherlands is a European country.
13) Cities and Lakes use no THE :
I live in Rio de Janeiro.
The resort is near Lake Victoria.
( But one city in Netherlands - The Hague has the article )
14) Oceans, Seas, Rivers use the article THE :
It's a place on the coast of the Mediterranean.
Have you ever gone on a boat trip on the Amazon ?
Hawaii is in the Pacific Ocean.
15) Groups of islands ( only groups ) take the article the as well :
They come from the Virgin Islands.
I spent my last vacation in the Bahamas.
16) Groups of Mountains ( Mountain Ranges ) use the :
She's never been to the Andes.
They own a lovely cottage in the Alps.
17) Use the with regions :
It's much colder in the South.
There's been a peace agreement in the Middle East.
18) Streets, Avenues, Roads, etc..... don't use the :
It's on Fifth Avenue.
They have a nice shop on Bloor Street
Their new show is on Broadway.
19) Usually we don't use the, when the name of a place is formed by a proper name and a common name, for instance. Oxford University, Heathrow Airport but we use The White House; because White in this case is not a proper name.
20) Hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, museums, monuments usually take THE :
The Sheraton Hotel, The National Museum, The Empire States Building, The Statue of Liberty ( Stores and restaurants named after people don't have THE, Harrod's; McDonald's.)
Banks also don't take the; Citibank; Lloyds Bank.
Otherwise if you have a contruction with of, the is possible.
The University of Florida.
The Museum of Natural History.