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Learn English > English lessons and exercises > English test #5354: A/ an and the
A/ an and the
A/ an and the
Compare a and the in these examples:
• A man and a woman were sitting opposite me. The man was American but I think the woman was British.
• When we were on holiday, we stayed at a hotel. Sometimes we had our evening meal at the hotel and sometimes we went to a restaurant.
We use the when we are thinking of one particular thing. Compare a/an and the:
• Tom sat down on a chair, (perhaps one of many chairs in the room)
but Tom sat down on the chair nearest. (a particular chair)
• Ann is looking for a job. (not a particular job)
but Did Ann get the job she applied for? (a particular job)
• Have you got a car? (not a particular car)
but I cleaned the car yesterday. (= my car)
We use the when it is clear in the situation which thing or person we mean. For example, in a room we talk about 'the light / the floor / the ceiling / the door / the carpet' etc.:
• Can you turn off the light, please? (= the light in this room)
• I took a taxi to the station. (= the station in that town)
• I’d like to speak to the manager, please. (= the manager of this shop etc.)
In the same way, we say (go to) the bank, the post office:
• I must go to the bank to get some money and then I'm going to the post office to get some stamps. (The speaker is usually thinking of a particular bank or post office.)
Also: the doctor, the dentist:
• Carol isn't very well. She's gone to the doctor. (= her usual doctor)
• I hate going to the dentist.
• Is there a bank near here?
• My sister is a dentist.
Don't forget the:
• Susan works in the city centre, (not 'in city centre')
• My brother is in the army, (not 'in army')
We say 'once a week / three times a day / £1.20 a kilo' etc.:
• How often do you go to the cinema?' About once a month.'
• 'How much are those potatoes?' £1.20 a kilo.'
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