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(Basic) Definite and Indefinite Articles in English

You use the definite article (the) with a noun that you already mentioned and the indefinite article (a or an) with a noun that is undefined. These are the basic rules, but there are others that you should know.

Rule 3. Geographical names without articles

No Article

Do not an article with streets, parks, cities, states, counties, most countries, continents, bays, single lakes, single mountains, and single islands.


Ascension Island



Central America




Central Park

North America

Northern Ireland

Pennsylvania Avenue

San Francisco Bay

Santorini (Greece)

South America

Wall Street

With and Without articles

Some geographical names you can use without the article when you say their names only or with the article when you use their official names.

Name Only Official Name
Belgium the Kingdom of Belgium
Cape Verde the Republic of Cape Verde
China the People’s Republic of China
Guam the Territory of Guam
Dallas the City of Dallas
Manhattan the Island of Manhattan
Puerto Rico the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
Russia the Russian Federation
Senegal the Republic of Senegal
Slovakia the Slovak Republic
Vermont the State of Vermont

Rule 4. No Article with Plural Nouns with a General Sense

Compare the use of articles in the following groups of sentences:

— I like cats but I prefer dogs.

— Would you like to have a party on your birthday?

— Sure! I love parties.

(At the end of a movie)

— Did you like the movie?

— I loved it! I only like scary movies that have good stories.

Rules 5, 6, and 7 are about using articles with names and titles.

Rule 5. No article with people’s names

In some languages, it is correct to use a definite article with people’s names. This is not true of English.

Rule 6. Use “the” with titles

Use “the” to talk about people by their title.

the bishop of New York

the governor of California

the president of the United States

the king of England

Rule 7. No article if you use the person’s name after the title

If you use the person’s name after the title, you apply Rule 5 (no article with people’s names).

Bishop Timothy Dolan

Governor Smith

President Joe Biden

King Charles III

Is This Confusing?

Yes, this can be confusing.

The best way to get better at using articles in English is to practice reading, writing, listening, and speaking as often as possible.

Using the correct article is important, but most of the time people will understand you even if you use an article incorrectly. Just do your best and practice a lot.


Practice 1 covers the basic rules.

Practice 2 uses more advanced sentences.

Congratulations on completing this  lesson!

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