Article mistakes

I correct essays every day and one mistake I always notice is the omission of articles. Many students have difficulty using articles correctly. Most of them simply omit articles. Article mistakes do not matter much; still it is better to use them correctly.

This article gives a quick overview of the most important rules and exceptions.

A singular countable noun must have an article or another determiner with it.

Determiners are words like this, that, these, those, some, any, all, both, none, my, his, your, her etc. They go before nouns. Articles are also determiners.

A singular countable noun cannot be used without an article or another determiner.

Countable nouns are the names of people or things that can be counted. Countable nouns have singular and plural forms.

Examples are: boy, boys, book, books, garden, gardens, flower, flowers, toy, toys, pen, pens etc.

A singular countable noun must have an article or another determiner with it. Study the examples given below.

  • This is a pen. (NOT This is pen.)
  • She is my sister. (NOT She is sister.)
  • I have got a problem. (NOT I have got problem.)
  • I look forward to being a grandmother. (NOT I look forward to being grandmother.)
  • He is the boy who won the first prize. (NOT He is boy who won first prize.)

In the examples given above, the nouns pen, sister, problem, grandmother, boy and prize are all singular countable nouns and hence they require an article or another determiner.

Uncountable and plural nouns can be used with or without articles.

Plural and uncountable nouns cannot be used with the article ‘a/an’, but they can be used with ‘the’.

  • The boys are playing in the garden.
  • The girls are rehearsing for the program.
  • The books are on the table.

When we are talking about things in general, we do not usually use ‘the’ with plural and uncountable nouns.


  • My sister loves chocolates. (NOT My sister loves the chocolates.)
  • I enjoy reading novels. (NOT I enjoy reading the novels.)
  • Life is complicated. (NOT The life is complicated.)
  • Smartphones are expensive. (NOT The smartphones are expensive.)

The article ‘the’ is used with both countable and uncountable nouns when we are talking about particular people or things.

  • The boy I met in the store was very naughty. (NOT Boy I met in store was very naughty. We are talking about a particular boy here and hence we need to use the article ‘the’.)
  • Children usually start walking at around one year old. (NOT The children usually start walking …. Here we are talking about children in general and hence no article is used.
  • Water is essential for life. (NOT The water is essential for the life.)

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I'm Manjusha. This is my blog where I give IELTS preparation tips.

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