A or the? Never get confused again with this smart infographic

Is it 'a' or 'the'? Never get confused again with this smart infographic.

Is it “a” or “the”? … or nothing?

This is something that every English learner has a problem with, even the most advanced students.

Before you can use articles (“a,” “an,” “the”) correctly, you need to know how they work. This infographic gives you the rules, examples and exceptions so that you can use articles more confidently.


"a" or "the" infographic

9 thoughts on “A or the? Never get confused again with this smart infographic

  1. How about “hospital”? If you are a patient in it, then you don’t use any article, but if you are a visitor – then “the” or “a” is used. The same rule is for “school”: if you study or teach there, then you don’t use any article.

    1. Great points.

      Yes — I tried to keep the exceptions as simple as possible, but as I always say, there are always exceptions to the exceptions!

      Nonetheless I think we can still say that when we consider the hospital (or school or prison or university etc.) an institution, then we don’t use an article.
      If we consider it just a building, then we would use an article.

      Your examples are really good because they show that the teacher considers herself as part of an institution, but if you’re just someone walking past it, then the school is just a building.

      Thanks for making such a great point!

  2. HOUSE M.D.: Your wife has a separate bank account in her name only. She‘s been making weekly cash deposits for about a year now. No withdrawals… yet.
    TAUB: That’s it? A bank account?
    H: A secret bank account.
    T: What makes you think it’s a secret?
    H: Because if it wasn’t, you’d call itthe” bank account.
    T: Damn. Always forget to use the right article when lying…

  3. Being Russian I must admit that the (un)countable and nonspecific nouns are much more logical than their gender colleagues.
    To trick the logic, I consider articles as some sort of ‘pseudo’ or ‘semi’ pronouns.
    Things usually belong to someone (and so on) — so we use the possessive form as well as the demonstrative or indefinite pronoun.
    So if you need the words like ‘my/his/her/your’, ‘some/any’, ‘(n)either’, ‘no’, ‘this/that’ or ‘these/those’ — don’t bother about an article at all — you already ‘have’ one! And it must be the only one of them in a sentence, not two, even if Russian logic demands more.
    It’s the most frequent error I noticed as far as articles are concerned.
    Well, that’s step #0 in your algorithm of thinking I believe. 🙂
    Thank you.

    1. That’s a great way to think about it! Kudos. Especially to avoid that whole “his the biggest car” problem…

      Thanks! I might actually use this explanation with my students… 🙂

      1. Re: No/Zero article
        And sometimes a preposition is quite enough: by law; after work; in bed; for/after/until breakfast (lunch/dinner); in spring (winter/summer, autumn); by bus (car/train), on foot…

  4. It’s very useful for me, don’t stop blogging please..you can’t even imagine how it’s difficult to deal with our local teachers’ explanation because I see their getting trouble with it as well.. But I know that everything must have its logical consequences, it was so far ..?

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