“A” and “an” are called indefinite articles because they are used when we talk about something in general, or when we talk about something for the first time. We use “an” when the next word begins with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) and we use “a” with words that begin with a consonant (all the other letters in the alphabet). In addition, we only use “a” and “an” with singular count nouns:
There was an earthquake in Japan two years ago.
How much does a new car cost?
Is there a bathroom in this building?
“The,” on the other hand, is a definite article.We use it when we’re talking about something specific, or when we continue to talk about something we’ve introduced. “The” can be used for singular or plural nouns, count or non-count:
The people in my class are very friendly.
The refrigerator is broken!
I took the F Train this morning.
Read the following story, and pay special attention to the articles:
Last night I found a cockroach in my kitchen. The cockroach was very big and very fast. I picked up a newspaper to kill it, but the newspaper was too soft. Then I picked up a frying pan. I was able to kill the cockroach, but then I had to wash the frying pan. I washed the frying pan in the sink, but when I finished, I saw a second cockroach. The second cockroach was even bigger than the first one!
Now watch the video lesson to learn more, then you can take the quiz to test your knowledge!