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When we use “the” and when we use “a” or “an”

In the earlier post we talked about indefinitely article “a” and “an” (If you haven’t read that, please read at this entry). Now in this session let’s see the difference between “the” and “a” or “an”.

We use “the” when we and the listeners or readers know which item we mean. We talk about definite item or when we talk to someone who has known the item.

“Jane, what about the movies we watched yesterday? Was it very good?”
We and Jane know the movies.

“John, give me the money!”
We know that John has the money.

We use “a” or “an” when we’re not necessarily referring to a specific thing (such as a nail, any nail). It’s called an indefinite article, because we’re not being definite or particular. There are many nails in this big world.

“John has a dog”
It means any dog, we don’t know which dog he has.
“John, hand me a pen please”
We command John to give any pen because there are a lot of pens in our house.

Other usage of “the”

We can use the the second time you refer to something, even if we used an the first time. You know what we’re referring to, because we just told us.

We came to a beach yesterday. The beach was very beautiful.

When it comes to geography, you don’t use the before the names of most nations, provinces, states, lakes or islands. But there are many exceptions: the United States, the Ukraine, or the Congo. On the other hand, the Ukrainians and Congolese people I’ve met say, “Ukraine” and “Congo,” so go figure. If the name refers to plural items, such as the United States, or the Maldives, you would use the definite article. You would do the same for rivers and oceans, such as the Amazon, the Nile, and the Caspian Sea. Bays need the definite article.

He moved to Nepal near Mount Everest.
They spent their honeymoon in eastern Maine, on Penobscot Bay

English sometimes does not use any article at all. You don’t need one when making a general statement, or when talking about meals and transportation.

I like mango so much.
She prefers rock music.
I eat breakfast at home.
I go to campus by bus.

British writers don’t use an article for some places that Americans would.

British: I go to university.
American: I go to college.
American: I transferred to the university last year.
British: I felt so ill that I went to hospital.
American: I got so sick I had to go to the hospital.

Some rules apply all the time. Some rules apply only in certain situations, and only experience and reading can help you get them all right. And some rules apply only in certain situations in certain cultures: British and American English is sometimes different, as you may have learned by now.

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Comments :

4 comments to “When we use “the” and when we use “a” or “an””
Fitriansyah said...

malam ches

Anonymous said...

wah guru mas yah h3x trus trnag bahas inggris gw masih ack-ackan

ozants said...

referensi bagus buat belajar inggris

Fitriansyah said...

malam ches??

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