Difference between “a” and “the”
“A” and “the” are articles which are used in the English language. An article is a word used before a noun, which is a person, place or thing, to modify its meaning. The articles are divided into “definite” and “indefinite”.[table “” not found /]
As the name indicates the word definite means clear or obvious. “The” is a definite article which is used before a specific noun. It can be used both for countable and uncountable nouns. When we talk about something specific we use “the”.
- She saw the moon last night.
- I want the red book.
In both sentences “the” indicates a specific noun that we already know.
A /an are the indefinite articles which are used only with singular countable nouns. Use of “a” indicates that the noun is not specific. When we talk about something in general, we use “a”.
- I want a
- I was born in a
In the above sentences “a” is used for general nouns which are neither specific nor known.
Use of “a”
- I am a
- Lara is a British national.
- Paul ordered a
Sometimes we a and the with the same word. For example:
- I saw a
- A teacher is the builder of a nation.
Here use of a before book and teacher means any book or any teacher.
Use of “the”
- I saw the elephant at the zoo.
- Have you cleaned the fridge?
- Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan.
- I saw the
- She is the English teacher.
Use of the in the above sentences indicates a specific book and a specific teacher, to whom we are already familiar.