a, an / the

The words a/an and the are "articles". We divide them into "indefinite" and "definite" like this:

indefinite articles definite article

We use "indefinite" to mean not sure, not certain. "Indefinite" is general.

We use "definite" to mean sure, certain. "Definite" is particular.

When we are talking about one thing in general, we use a or an. When we are talking about one thing in particular, we use the.

Think of the sky at night. In the sky we see millions of stars and 1 moon. So normally we would say:

Look at these examples:

a, an the
I was born in a town.

John had an omelette for lunch.

James Bond ordered a drink.

We want to buy an umbrella.

Have you got a pen?
The capital of France is Paris.

I have found the book that I lost.

Have you cleaned the car?

There are six eggs in the fridge.

Please switch off the TV when you finish.
On this page we talk only about the difference between "a/an" and "the" with singular, countable nouns.

Of course, often we can use a/an or the for the same word. It depends on the situation, not the word. Look at these examples:

This little story should help you understand the difference between a, an and the:

A man and a woman were walking in Oxford Street. The woman saw a dress that she liked in a shop. She asked the man if he could buy the dress for her. He said: "Do you think the shop will accept a cheque? I don't have a credit card."