English Articles – 3 Simple Rules To Fix Common Grammar Mistakes & Errors

Hello! I’m Emma from mmmEnglish and in this lesson we’re working on your English grammar, specifically on how to use
articles. Now I know this is a lesson that you need to watch. There are three
English articles, “a”, “an” and “the”. It is possible to have no article and using
one or the other changes the meaning of your English sentences.
But more on that later! Articles are a challenging part of
speaking English but they’re a really important part. They give information
about the noun that they come before. Using articles incorrectly can make your
sentences confusing or sound strange. And mistakes with articles are quite obvious
to native speakers. They probably won’t correct you, but they’ll notice them – even
though you’ll probably be understood if you make mistakes with articles. Using
the incorrect article is one of the most common errors that English learners make.
If you’ve ever emailed me or messaged me on Facebook, I’ve probably seen it in
your writing too. These mistakes happen all the time without you even realising it!
But there is a reason why these kind of mistakes are so common! There are lots of
different rules about how to use articles and lots of exceptions too! So to make articles a little easier for you, I’ve broken this lesson down into three
main rules that you need to know about using English articles. Now, I’m not going
to teach you every rule about English articles. I don’t want to scare you away
so much that you never come back! I’m going to teach you some
principles that will help you to use articles better. Remember, that articles
are used with English nouns. So, nouns play an important part in your decision
to use an article. The type of noun is important. There are two types of
articles in English, definite and indefinite. And it’s probably easier for
me to show you how they work. This table will help to make it a little
clearer. Thinking about English nouns, we know that there are countable and
uncountable nouns. Countable nouns can be singular or plural. So there’s a lot to
think about and it really affects how you use
articles. If a noun is singular and countable, then you can use the
indefinite article “a” or “an”. The definite article, “the”, can be used with countable
or uncountable nouns. When a noun is plural, so when there is more than one of
that noun, the definite article, “the”, can be used. And though we can’t use the
indefinite singular articles “a” and “and”, we can use “some” when we’re not being
specific. Now, this technically is not an article
but if you’re using a plural noun and you’re not being specific, “some” is the
perfect choice. So for the singular countable noun, strawberry, I can say “A
strawberry”, I can say “The strawberry” when I’m being specific. If I’m using the
plural form of that noun, strawberries, then I can use “some” if I’m not being
specific. “I would like some strawberries please” or
I can use “the”, the definite article with my plural noun. “Could you pass me the
strawberries?” The difference between the definite and the indefinite articles is the difference between talking about a specific pen, a unique pen, or any pen at
all – it doesn’t matter! Like I said, we’re going to focus on
three main rules today. Learn these rules and you will choose the correct article
most of the time. The first rule explains when we use “the”, the definite article and
when we use “a” or “an”, the indefinite article. The second rule deals with
unique nouns, which usually require the definite article. And the third rule
explains why we sometimes leave articles out. If you do need an article, when
should you use an indefinite article and when should you use the definite article?
Great question! Let’s talk about rule number one.
Indefinite articles, “a” and “an” are used when you first introduce someone to a
noun. It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking or writing. When you first
introduce a countable noun, you need to use “a” or “an”, then you can use the definite
article, after you have introduced the noun. I want to demonstrate this for you
with a very simple story. I saw a person yesterday. The person was sitting under a tree. The tree was very tall. The person stood up when they saw a cat. The cat jumped on a wall to try and catch a bird but the bird flew off the wall. In this example, the nouns person, tree, wall, cat and bird, all take
the indefinite article but only when they’re first introduced. After that, we
use the definite article every time. This rule is about ensuring that the reader
or the listener knows which specific noun you’re talking about. As soon as
you’ve made this clear to the person, you can use the definite article every time
you use it. Now we know which bird, of all of the
possible birds in the world that it could be, we know which specific bird
you’re talking about. So, we can use the definite article. The second rule. When a
noun is unique, use the definite article. When something is unique, there is only
one of that thing. That’s when we use the definite article. The definite article is
“the”. “The sun”, “The president”, “The Queen of England” and “The capital city” are all
examples of this. There is only one of these nouns. They’re unique. This is especially true for nouns that are well-known by most people. But it’s even true
when the listener might not know the noun. “Who’s he?” “He’s the president of the
United States. He’s the CEO. He’s the mayor.” Compare it to “Who’s she?” “She’s a
member of parliament. She’s an accountant. She’s an engineer.” There is more than one
of these nouns, so that noun is not unique. Now, I’m going to keep giving some
more examples to rule number two. And remember, for rule two, we’re thinking
about nouns that are unique. There’s only one of these nouns. But this uniqueness,
it doesn’t need to be really obvious, it can come through
the context. So for example, “A truck crashed into a tree. The driver was not
injured.” Once we introduce the car, we know, by association, that there could
only be one driver because there was only one car or one truck mentioned. So
the driver is unique in the story. There’s only one driver that we could
possibly be talking about. Keep thinking about this idea of a unique noun as we
continue. When you’re using superlative adjectives, “the best place”, “the worst
thing”, “the fastest runner”, “the tallest mountain”, “the most interesting person
I’ve met”, you need to use the definite article because there can only be one
person, place or thing that can be the fastest or the most expensive. Paul is taller than Steve and Greg but Tom is taller than Paul. And Adam is the tallest.
There are many boys who are taller than Greg but only one person can be the
tallest, that’s Adam. Also, use the definite article for named things. By naming them, they become unique. So for example, “The Himalayas”, “The Amazon River”, “The Indian Ocean”, “The United Nations”, “The Eiffel Tower”, “The 8:06 bus”. All of these
nouns are unique but there are some exceptions, like the names of people – we
don’t usually use an article. The names of lakes and islands don’t usually use articles, Phi Phi Island or Lake Victoria, except
when these nouns are plural, like The Great Lakes or The Galapagos Islands.
These exceptions are what make articles very frustrating in English but don’t
give up! When you’re ordering things, so when ordinal numbers like second, fifth, are used as adjectives. For example, “The second time” or “The third example” or “The
fourth person to call”. So in other words once you place an order on an object,
they hold a unique position in that order and so you can use the definite
article. OK lastly, why do we use an article with a noun
sometimes and at other times we don’t use an article at all? This is the third
rule. When we’re speaking about a noun in general, we’re not being specific about
which particular noun, we usually leave the article out. And if it’s countable,
you need to use the plural form. Let’s use a countable noun, this pen, as an
example. When we’re talking about an actual pen or pens that really exist, we
use an article, definite or indefinite. In the following examples we’re speaking of
specific or actual or real pens that exist. “Can I borrow the pen?” That’s a
specific pen. “The pen that’s on your desk.” Singular and specific. “The pens are in
your bag.” That’s a plural noun, right? And with the definite article. But we can
also make general statements about pens and when we do, we speak generally,
this is when we can leave the article out. For example, “I prefer to use black
pens”, “I never have pens when I need them” “I bought pens for you to use” It is
absolutely possible to use an article or leave it out but the meaning will be
different in each case. “I really like eating cake” This is a general statement
about cake – could be any cake but compare it to “I really like the cake you made”.
It’s a statement about a specific cake, a cake that I’ve actually eaten. When
speaking generally about a countable noun, you need to use the plural form. So
for example, “I’m allergic to strawberries”. So strawberries in general. “Australians like to eat eggs for breakfast” Just eggs in general, not specific eggs. If you’re talking about something that is
uncountable like information or knowledge or equipment, then just use the
noun in its original form because obviously it doesn’t have a plural form.
So for example, “The information is available at the counter” and that’s
specific information, something that we’ve already been talking about.
“Information is available at the counter” is a very general statement. General
information. OK I know that that was a big lesson and a lot to take in. You
should probably watch it again to really let all of the information sink in. I’ve
made a cheat sheet and a worksheet that’s going to help you to practise
using what you learned in this lesson. You can download it right here. But
before you do go there, let’s just go over those three important
rules again just to make sure you remember them. The first rule explains
when we use “the”, and when we use “a” or “an”, the definite and the indefinite
articles. Remember the story about the person and the cat and the bird? When you’re introducing something that is probably unknown to the listener or the
reader, you need to use “a” and “an” or “an” Then any time after that, you can use “the”.
The second rule deals with unique nouns which usually use the definite article.
Now I gave you lots of different examples about how nouns can be unique
and we also talked about how “the” should usually be used with ordinal numbers,
when they’re adjectives. The third rule explains why we sometimes leave articles
out – that’s when we’re talking generally about something. Now remember, that these
three rules are great but they’re general rules. They work most of the time. Unfortunately, there will always be some exceptions with articles, but don’t lose
hope! These three rules are going to help you make better choices about using
English articles, so that you can really improve your English grammar. Don’t
forget to download the worksheet, up here! The mmmEnglish worksheets are great
because I’ll also send you a bonus audio guide of me explaining the answers for
you. So if you do get any of them wrong, you’ll know exactly why. To keep
practising English grammar, check out this lesson here. And to improve your
pronunciation and your speaking skills, try my imitation lessons right here. I
hope that you enjoyed this lesson and I will see you again next week for
the next lesson. Bye for now!

100 thoughts on “English Articles – 3 Simple Rules To Fix Common Grammar Mistakes & Errors”

  1. Thanks so much dear teacher Emma you are absolutely delightful and very helpful for me to learn in the best way English.

  2. Mmmenglish emma is alway my perfect teacher !!! Emma is unique’ .imma is the most interesting lessons i learn. Emma english coach speaking specific pen. I really like the cake my mama make.

  3. Hi Emma! Could you explain why in the sentence "The person stood up when they saw a cat" you used the pronoun "they" instead "he"?

  4. Hello, Ms. Emma! Thank you for your lesson! It really is helpful! I was just hoping that you could clarify one thing from your lesson to me. What is the difference between the two statements? 1. "unique nouns, which usually use A definite article (the)" (it pops up on the screen) vs. 2. "unique nouns, which usually use THE definite article" (you said it in the summary to the lesson). Looking forward to hearing from you, thanks!

  5. I m Sanjeev I have watched ur videos for 2 months I like it….I'm from India…I m native Indian ….my tounge is Hindi…I want to learn English

  6. 'I don't want food to spoil, so I often go to supermarket to buy groceries.'
    My question is do we use any article before 'supermarket' in the above example sentence.

  7. Hi Emma. How are you today?
    I'd like to understand why before the University is used "A" and not "an" once is a voual and has a voual sound as well. This was my unique mistake on the exercise. I hope you can answer me. Thank you.

  8. the eeeeyes of may teacher are the eyes very beutifulls of the world.thaks for your good teacher.

  9. Emma, great ! You are a cup of tea to me. Be thanked. The way you teach anything sounds like we are taught like babies. Consequently, we can fix our problems.

  10. This rule was explained by many teachers in real life but the lesson that you made in youtube helped me to understand entirely. Thank you so much

  11. Thank you for your video(s), I'm learning a lot from it. I have a question about a detail 😉 In the little story there is this line: "The person stood up when they saw a cat." Why you use they to refer to the person? Isn't it singular? In the first line of the story: "I saw a person yesterday" is it singular. Sorry, I am a little bit confused. I hope someone can explain it to me. Thanks in advance.

  12. Hi Emma, Im confused with this, please tell me a brief explanation

    (A/The) goal of (an/the/-) education in (a/-) university level is…

  13. You're not right. The unique nouns do not require any article for articles being former demonstrative or indefinite pronouns, that point at a/the noun from a multitude. Meanwhile the concept of multitude contradicts to the concept of uniqueness. If you don't believe it, have a look at a dollar bill which says "In God we trust". Ask yourself why there's no article there.

  14. Hi.. i found your video very useful… but i have one query. Why we should use an before noun environment as it is uncountable.Please provide some light on this.Thnaks in advance

  15. Excellent video, however you didn’t mention the use of a and an separately. I think I know the difference, but I would have liked to hear it from you just to be sure. Best.

  16. Thanks for video. Just want to ask as i have a query. I get stuck with words famous or modern. We should the or a with them. Such as modern clothing or the modern art; the famous actor or a famous actor. Please help

  17. I love uuuuu Emmmmmmma 💋💋 but plzzz at 6:28 in the paragraph about the person (stood up when they saw a cat….) is it a mistake (they) we should say when HE saw a cat or I am wrong?!!!!!!!!! I am confused

  18. Hi Emma, could you please make a video on how to pronounce "THE" word. i notice that you use two different ways of speaking THE, along THEE and short THUH, could you please elaborate the rules behind it.

    And thanks for these videos, they are really helpful 🙂

  19. Thank you Emma,
    I really like to watch your video lessons.Greetings from Mongolia,
    Bayarlalaa Emma/it's Mongolian 🙂 /
    Spasibo Emma za uroki. /it's in Russian 🙂 /

  20. I’m Australian and I make loads of English mistakes but when I watched this video I became more fluent and now I’m happy I watched your amazing videos.Thxs so much!! Ur the best

  21. You're the best teacher for us . Thanks you for this video . Actually , I learn the different between the articles .
    I'm not good in English , because it not my native language
    ,but if I study hard and watch videos , I'll become good in it

  22. Ma'am can u plz tell me if we tell about two or three proper nouns together should we use article' the' with it everytime
    E.g. we intend visiting Gateway of India Elephanta caves and Nehru planetarium.

  23. Please, make another video about articles. As you said there are lots of rules we need to learn. I would like to know them all.This video is really useful ,thanks

  24. Mam your good one service for all one ,I learned too from your system of guidance . but I understand to carefully think after understand meaningful . because I am Punjabi .

  25. Hello Emma
    This lesson is really important for me. I am always confused how to use article when I create sentence. However, watching it at once does not enough I must watch it again and again. English is tricky.😅 Thanks a bunch for teaching me. Wishing you are surrounded with love and happiness.❤️

  26. Hi teacher emma😘.this lesson was great.. thanks teacher emma😘…I hope you will have lesson about 'No' & 'Not'..these words I really don't know when and how to use correctly.. thanks in advanced..😘😘😘

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