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Ask Doctor English
Your ESL and English language learning specialist. Ask Dr. English whatever you like about the English language.

Friday, February 17, 2006


Here is a chance for you to have your questions answered by Doctor English. Today’s question is:

How do I know when to use A or when to use THE?

For some students of English, learning which article to use can be challenging, especially with “A” and “THE”. There are general rules of how to use them, but remember that in English, there are often exceptions to the rule.

“A” is used to talk about a noun which is not specific, such as “A chair in my office”. We often use “A” the first time we mention a noun, because until we mention it once, it is considering unspecific.

“THE” is used to talk about a noun which is specific. What this means is that both the speaker and listener are familiar with the noun being talked about. We often use “THE” the second, third, fourth, etc., time that we refer to a noun. For example, I can now say “The chair in my office”, because I have already introduced it to you in the previous paragraph.

Thank you for sending your questions. If you have any further queries, please email Doctor English at drenglish@vec.ca


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