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ESL Lesson Idea: Articles "A (or An)" and "The"


Many other languages do not use articles before nouns, so determining whether to use "a" (“an”) or "the" in English can be especially confusing.

  • A general rule is that "a" (or "an" before a vowel sound) refers to any object, while "the" refers to a specific object.
  • In addition, certain locations and activities, which are familiar and regular to the speaker, do not require any article (examples: home, school, work, church, class, breakfast, lunch, dinner).
  • Go over the examples on the handout Use of Articles and make sure your students understand them.
  • Statement and Question Exercise:
    • First compose a couple of simple statements using a noun and the article “a” (“an”), such as “I have a dog.” “I drive a Volkswagon.” “I ate a sandwich.” Write these on the board.
    • Then elicit question words (“who” what” “when” “where” “why” “how”) and write them on the board.
    • Use the question words to ask a question about each statement. For example:
      Statement: “I ate a sandwich.”
      Question: “Who made the sandwich?”
    • Pair students to have them come up with statements and questions (using “the”) corresponding to each other’s statements. Have them act out their scripted statements and questions for the rest of the class.
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