How much do articles matter?

The correct use of articles is one of the most difficult points in English Grammar. Fortunately, most mistakes in the use of articles don’t matter too much. Even if you write your sentences with no articles at all, it is usually possible to understand their meaning.

However, ESL students should try and learn the correct use of articles if possible.

Speakers of western European languages

The article systems of most Western European languages are very similar to that of English. So a student who can speak a language like French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese or Greek does not have to try hard to learn the correct usage of articles; he or she should already know. That said, the rules given in this lesson should be useful to both western and non-western learners of English.

A singular common noun is almost always used with an article. For example, we say a dog or the dog, but not usually dog.

When we are talking about people or things in general we do not usually use the with uncountable or plural nouns.

Spiders have eight legs. (NOT The spiders have eight legs.)

Life is complicated. (NOT The life is complicated.)

We do not use articles with proper nouns.

Paris is the capital of France. (NOT The Paris is the capital of the France.)