Articles Part 4

Articles with generalisations


We can use the when we make generalisations about classes of things using singular countable nouns.

  • The computer has revolutionised publishing. (this refer to computers in general)
  • A computer has revolutionised publishing. (computers in general have done this, not an individual computer)
  • The computer is an important research tool.
  • A computer is an important research tool. (this statement is true of both the general class and the individual item)

As alternative to the + singular countable noun we can use a plural countable noun to talk about class of things.

  • Computers are an important research tool.

Notice that if the is used with plural and uncountable nouns we refer to a specific thing or group.

  • The computers have arrived. Where shall I put them?
  • The music was wonderful. I could have listened to the orchestra all night.

When we define something or say what is typical of a particular class of people of things, we generally use a/an rather than the.

  • A corkscrew is a gadget for getting corks out of bottles.
  • A garden is there to give you pleasure, not to be a constant worry.


  • Choose the, a/an or both
  1. We get some strange requests in our shop. We had __ customer in the other day who wanted to buy chocolate-covered ants.
  2. It sometimes seems that __ individual can have little impact on the decisions that governments take.
  3. The invention of __ car is normally attributed to the German engineer Gottlieb Daimler.
  4. __ television has changed the way we obtain information more than any other modern invention.
  5. The campaign against smoking in public places argues that its harmful effects are not confined to __ smoker.


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License