Article Usage and IELTS - Part 1

I was recently asked a number of questions about article usage in the reading and listening tests. Article usage can be especially confusing because many languages use them differently (if at all). However, they are an important part of the English language.

Not only do you need to understand them to show proficiency in the speaking and writing modules, but you need to use articles correctly in the reading and listening modules as well. Remember, answers must be grammatically correct to count toward your score.

Normally, English speakers use articles to differentiate between the general and the specific. Let’s take a look at this…

INDEFINITE ARTICLES - A and AN

Indefinite articles refer to something general. They should only be used with singular, countable nouns.

  • Can I borrow a pencil?   (The borrower is looking for any pencil; it doesn’t matter which one.)
  • The recipe calls for an orange. (Again, an orange is needed, but it doesn’t matter which one.)

DEFINITE ARTICLE - THE

“The” is used to refer to something specific or unique. It is used with singular or plural nouns.

  • The man is going to work. (One identified man is going to work.)
  • We do not attend school over the summer. (There is only one summer.)
  • How difficult were the questions on yesterday’s test? (Specifically refers to the test questions, even though the noun is plural)

Understanding this grammar rule will help you immensely on IELTS. However, there are more rules to be aware of when preparing for the test. I will break these down in later blog posts. In the meantime, try your hand at this example:

When I was __________ child, I met __________ alien who said he went to __________ school for __________ gifted. He told me that he used to be __________ astronaut for his home planet, but he wanted __________ adventure and moved to Earth to become __________ student. I was not sure that _________ alien was telling __________ truth because aliens do not live in _________ United States. Nevertheless, meeting him was __________ exciting experience.

ANSWERS

When I was a child, I met an alien who said he went to a school for the gifted. He told me that he used to be an astronaut for his home planet, but he wanted an adventure and moved to Earth to become a student. I was not sure that the alien was telling the truth because aliens do not live in the United States. Nevertheless, meeting him was an exciting experience.

My goal is to help you improve your English language skills through helpful tips, strategies, lessons, and more. Please let me know if you have specific questions that I can help you with. You can also receive individualized coaching by signing up here.