October 14


EP24: Articles (2)


Hello hello, fellow learners of English, how are you doing out there? This is Kristian here, nice to be with you again, and welcome to the Learners of English Podcast, episode number 24.

You are listening to this podcast because you want to improve your English, so you can fulfil your dreams in life, whatever they may be. As always, it’s an honor for me to help you to get from where you are right now to where you want to be.

OK, let’s get down to business.

Today we continue with our in-depth series about articles. It is complicated stuff, so you might not get it all the first time round.  If that’s the case, here’s my top-tip for you:

I suggest you listen to this series carefully the first time without transcript, then listen again with the transcript provided on my website, and then, last but not least, you should create your own example sentences with articles.

If you do it like this, I’m sure you’ll get a grip on this tricky part of English grammar.

OK, let’s start with the rules of articles:

When do we use the and when do we use a/an? When do we use no article at all?

First, the difference between the and a/an:

When you are talking about a thing, for example an object in your house, does the other person you are talking to know specifically which thing you are talking about?

If yes, then you can use the. For example, imagine you are talking to your son and you argue about who gets the iPad.

You ask your son: “Can I get the iPad now? You’ve already been playing for 90 minutes”

In this case, your son knows which iPad, because:

– Maybe there is only one iPad in the room;

– Maybe it’s in his hand;

– Maybe you’ve argued with him about the iPad before.

If you’re not talking about one specific iPad, you’d use an. For example, you have two iPads at home, but you don’t know where they are.

You ask your son: “Is there an iPad in the living room?” In this case, you just want one iPad, it doesn’t matter which one.

But this is just one example. Unfortunately, there are many more situations in which you have to decide whether to use the or a/an. In the next episodes you’ll get to hear many more examples, because that’s the only way to really learn how to use articles.

But for now, let’s go back to our very first question. How do we know if the other person knows what we’re talking about? (and thus, how do we know if we need the or a/an?)

We need to go into the details of why the other person would know what you’re talking about. And there are plenty of reasons why.

For example:

● We’ve already mentioned it before: There’s a position available in my team. The job will involve some international travel.

● We say which ones we mean after the noun: The Macbook which I bought last week.

● It’s obvious which one we mean: I’m going to visit the doctor.

● There’s only one there: Where’s the bathroom?

● Superlatives: the highest building in New York.

There are more reasons, but we’ll talk about all these examples in the next episode that’s dedicated to the.

But what about no article?

If you’re not talking about one specific thing, but rather talking about things in general, then you use no article. For example:

Teachers are using more online tools these days. (not the teachers)

Learners of English need to practice if they want to make progress. (not the learners of English)

OK, that was a lot of theory about articles. Unfortunately, it’s not just that. There’s much more.

There are also grammatical distinctions like in the case of countable or uncountable nouns and whether it is possible to use articles in those cases. Then there is also the pronunciation of articles in natural sentences. But we’ll save that for the next episodes.

But this is all today. Now it’s time for you to start practicing. You can create short example sentences like I did. You could check out the transcript if you need a little help.

I know this topic is not the most exciting thing in your life, but believe me, if you master this topic your English will sound much more professional!

All right, let me know your thoughts on this episode in the comments or via email. Take care of yourself, and each other and I’ll catch you in the next episode.

About the author 


Kristian is a Dutch guy who teaches English online. He relaxes with audiobooks, music and podcasts. Kristian still has a lot to learn, but he's happy to share what he has learnt along the way.

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