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Articles & Determiners

We use articles and determiners in front of nouns and noun phrases to indicate whether we are
referring to something specific or something general.

Give me a book = Give me any book, I want to read something rather than anything specific.
Give me the/that book = Give me a specific book (# the book that we talked about, the book on the
table, your book etc.)

The general determiners are: a, an, any, another, other

The most common specific determiners are:

the definite article: the
demonstratives: this, that, these, those
possessives: my, your, his, her, its, our, their, whose

Indefinite articles

An indefinite article indicates that a noun is not specific. The indefinite articles are a and an.

Rules for using a and an:

1. With singular countable nouns, to introduce them
for the first time
She found a lost cat outside her house.
I met an old man in the garden.
2. To show that the noun belongs to a group She is a dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet.
3. To describe what someone or something is My mother is an accountant.
A bat is a nocturnal animal.
4. With singular nouns to describe an entire group It is often said that a dog is a mans best friend.

Definite article

The definite article the is used when it is known specifically what is being referred to.

Rules for using the:

1. There is only one of something/someone The moon is full tonight.
2. When talking about something in particular I like the people I study with. (vs. I like people who study.)
Did you like the steak? (vs. Do you like steak?)
3. With a superlative adjective It is the most expensive necklace in the store.
4. If the noun has already been mentioned A child was lost at the shopping mall. Later the child was
found safe.
5. To express a general statement about a noun The human body can be very resilient.
6. With musical instruments I am learning to play the flute.
7. When talking about a system or a service You should report the robbery to the police.
8. With adjectives when referring to groups The poor are greatly impacted by the economic crisis.
9. When referring to a specific person but not
mentioning the persons name
I called the dentist.
Ask the woman over there for directions.
10. With newspapers, well-known buildings and
works of art
The New York Times had an interesting article about
visiting the Taj Mahal.

No article

The most common cases when we dont use any article are the following:

Names of languages and nationalities:

Chinese, English, Norwegian, Russian

But: if we are referring to the whole population of the nation, we use the.
The Norwegians say that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.

Names of sports: football, hockey, baseball

Names of academic subjects: mathematics, physics, computer science

Any, another, other

any Used with a singular or uncountable
noun when referring to all of the people
or things
With your experience, I am sure you can get any
job you want.
The recipe is simple enough for any person to
another Used to refer to an additional person or
I would like another slice of pizza.
There is another route that has less traffic.
other the plural form of another Scott, Ricky, and a few other friends are coming
over for dinner.
I like carrot cake, apple pie, and many other

Definite Article with Geographical Names

The general rules regarding the use of the with geographical names are summarized below.

geographical areas
no article
Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, Siberia

but: the Western Hemisphere, the Arctic, the Middle East, the Far East, the North
Pole, the South Pole, the West coast
Countries no article
Australia, Estonia, Japan, Russia, Norway

but: we use the with plural, collective, or political country names
the Netherlands, the United Kingdom / the UK, the United States / the US, the
Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Cuba, the Russian Federation, the Commonwealth
of Australia
+ the Congo
Cities, towns,
no article
Amsterdam, Oslo, Tokyo, New York, Saint Petersburg

but: The Hague, the city of Oslo
Streets, avenues,
no article
Wall Street, George Road, Route 66, Fifth Avenue
Regions the Middle East
Deserts, valleys,
canyons, plateaus,
the Sahara / the Sahara Desert, the Kara Kum, the Nile Valley, the Valley of the
Kings, the Tibetan Plateau, the Grand Canyon, the West Siberian Plain

but: Death Valley, Silicon Valley
Islands no article
Greenland, Madagascar, Jamaica, Hokkaido, Java

but: the island of Greenland, the island of Jamaica
Island groups the Caribbean Islands, the Kuril Islands / the Kurils
Mountains, hills,
no article
Everest / Mount Everest, Vesuvius, Mont Blanc, Capitol Hill

but: the Kilauea Volcano
Mountain ranges the Rocky Mountains, the Himalayas, the Urals, the Andes, the Black Hills
Lakes no article
Lake Baikal, Lake Geneva, Utah Lake

but: the Great Lakes
Seas, oceans, gulfs,
the Pacific Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Carribean, the Black Sea, the Sea of
Japan, the Gulf of Mexico, the Bay of Bengal
but: Hudson Bay, San Francisco Bay
Rivers, canals,
waterfalls, straits
the Mississippi River, the Amazon, the River Thames, the Strait of Gibraltar, the
Bosphorus, the English Channel, the Panama Canal, the Gulf Stream, the Niagara
Celestial bodies - the Sun, the Milky Way, the black hole
- some constellations: the big dipper, the Pleiades
- no article with planets except sometimes the Earth

When studying the use of articles, you can consider the following examples:

When I went to the zoo, I saw a mother panda and a baby panda. The baby scared the mother when
he sneezed.

When I traveled to Croatia, I stayed in a nice hotel and went swimming in the Adriatic Sea. The hotel
was probably the most luxurious in the city.

A 5 year old boy went missing from the neighborhood. The boy was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. The
boy was later found hiding in a tree.