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Session 2

Most of us love to talk about our holidays and travels – and in English, that means using articles. So, when and how should we use them? In this session, Emma hears some more travellers' tales as we explore the rules of the articles a, an and the

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Activity 2

When to use 'the'

Some rules for using 'the'

We all have a favourite place we'd like to travel to - maybe to see a famous historic site, to trek in the mountains or just to lie on a beach and sunbathe.  

And to describe these places, we need to use the word the. Let's look at some of the rules.

Explanation:

We use the

1) Before singular nouns that we have already mentioned with a/an:

We saw an elephant. The elephant was standing under some trees.

2) Before singular, plural or uncountable nouns when we say exactly which person or thing we mean:

I love the coffee shop in George Street.

The people in my new office are really nice.

Where's the brown sugar?

BUT: We don't use the before plural and uncountable nouns when we are talking about things in general:

Children need plenty of exercise and fresh air. (children in general; exercise in general; fresh air in general)

Sugar isn't very good for you. (sugar in general)

3) We also use the before singular, plural or uncountable nouns when it is clear which person or thing we mean:

I'm going to the supermarket. (the one we always go to)

The children are upstairs. (our children)

Could you shut the door? (the door of this room)

4) We also use the before singular nouns when there is only one of the noun:

The sun is shining and there aren't any clouds in the sky.

To do

Let's practise. Listen to these people making plans to visit Italy and then try the next activity.

 

Listen to the audio and complete the activity

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John
Sally, you know Italy well, don't you?

Sally
Yes, why do you ask?

John
I'm thinking of going to Padua at the end of the summer term. Do you know if it's a nice town?

Sally
It's lovely, but the town is quite small. There's not a lot to do there. Will you go alone or with the friend you went with last year?

John
With the friend from university. Padua's in north-west Italy, isn't it?

Sally
No, it's more in the north-east. The nearest airport to Padua is in Venice.

John
Oh, that's even better. I think I'll book the flights on Wednesday.

Sally
You do that John. Having a good holiday is the most important thing in life!

John
Oh yes.

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Download the audio (size: 2MB).

Which article?

4 Questions

Complete each sentence from John and Sally's conversation with the correct article. Look at the grammar rules if you need help.

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Next

We've discussed using a, an and the in different situations. But there's more. Here are some sentences from John and Sally's conversation: do you know the rules about these articles?

  • (-) Padua's in (-) north-west Italy, isn't it? 
  • ...it's more in the north-east.
  • The nearest airport to Padua is in Venice.

We'll show you these rules in Session 3. And there's more information about articles in 6 Minute Grammar on the next page, when Finn talks about his trip to Cambodia and gets to meet an elephant - that's an elephant!

 

Session Grammar

  • We use the:

    1) Before singular nouns that we have already mentioned with a/an: We saw an elephant. The elephant was standing under some trees.

    2) Before singular, plural or uncountable nouns when we say exactly which person or thing we mean: Where's the brown sugar?

    3) Before singular, plural or uncountable nouns when it is clear which person or thing we mean. The children are upstairs. (our children)

    4) Before singular nouns when there is only one of the noun. The sun is shining.

    BUT: We don't use the before plural and uncountable nouns when we are talking about things in general: I love (-) cats.

Session Vocabulary