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:
- I saw a star last night.
- I saw the moon last night.
Look at these examples:
|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.
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:
- We want to buy an umbrella. (Any umbrella, not a particular umbrella.)
- Where is the umbrella? (We already have an umbrella. We are looking for our umbrella, a particular umbrella.)
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."