Tips on Article Use
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Tips on Article Use created by Xiaodong Liu BGSU Writing Center. Introduction What is an article? English has two articles: the and a/an . the = definite article a/an = indefinite article. For example: Let's read the book.

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Tips on Article Use

created by Xiaodong Liu

BGSU Writing Center

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What is an article?

English has two articles: the and a/an.

the = definite article

a/an = indefinite article

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For example:

Let's read the book.

Let's read a book.

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Tips on article use:

  • Use “the” with something which has already been mentioned so that both the speaker and listener know what is being talked about.

    A man came up to a police officer and asked her a question. The police officer didn’t understand the question, so she asked the man to repeat it.

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2. Use “the” before superlatives and ordinal numbers.

Thetallest student in the class is 2 meters tall.

Please read thefourth paragraph on page 3.

Today is themost important day in his life.

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3. Use “the” to refer to things that are unique.

The earth revolves around the sun once every 365 days (Kohl).

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4. Use “the” before musical instruments.


the piano

the violin

the saxophone

the erhu

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5. Use “the” in sentences or clauses where we identify a specific person or object. The context or situation makes the noun's identity clear.

Close the door.

I’m going to the library

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This magazine helps women analyze the

problematic situation and offers possible

remedies (Kohl) .

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6. Use of Articles with Proper Nouns.

Proper nouns are names of particular people, places, and things.

John F. Kennedy

New York City

Notre Dame Cathedral

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The definite article is not used with most

singular proper nouns.

×The George and I went to a movie last


→ George and I went to a movie last


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a) when you want to be emphatic

the Elizabeth Taylor

b) when you are actually using the name as a

common noun

the George that I introduced you to last night

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☆ Use “the” with a surname in its plural form

to refer to members in the family.

the Johnsons

the Greens

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Singular geographical names are very

irregular with respect to article usage.



Mount Fuji

San Francisco Bay

the Crimea

the Sahara

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Examples of irregularities (Kohl):

State Streetthe Empire State BuildingGreat Britainthe Soviet Unionthe University of VirginiaBowling Green State Universitythe United Nations (the U.N.)the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries(but "OPEC," not "the OPEC")

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Works Cited

Kohl, John R. Article Usage. 11 September

2007. Online posting.