6 more advanced rules for using articles at Level B1 (A, AN, THE and Ø). This is our third set of rules for using articles in English (take a look at the first 6 rules here and the second 6 rules here). Keep in mind that the rules for articles become increasingly difficult as you progress!

Rule #1: When to use ‘the’ when talking about countries

For most countries, we don’t use ‘the’. For example:

  • I have never been to France.
  • I have never been to the France.
  • I travelled around North America last year.
  • I travelled around the North America last year.

However, we DO use ‘the’ when we are talking about groups of islands, countries that have a plural -s or places that include the word ‘States’, ‘Kingdom’ or ‘-lands’.

  • I would love to visit the Caribbean.
  • I would love to visit Caribbean.
  • Have you ever visited the Philippines?.
  • Have you ever visited Philippines?.
  • I travelled around the United Kingdom last year.
  • I travelled around United Kingdom last year.
  • I travelled around the United Kingdom last year.
  • I travelled around United Kingdom last year.
  • Amsterdam is in the Netherlands.
  • Amsterdam is in Netherlands.

Rule #2: Using ‘the’ with geographical features

We do NOT use ‘the’ with the following:

  • continents (Asia, Africa, North America)
  • mountains (Mount Fuji, Mount Everest)
  • single islands (Saint Lucia, Antigua, Grenada)
  • streets, roads, avenues etc (Willow Street, Duke Avenue)
  • cities and towns (London, Paris, New York)
  • counties or states (Sussex, Alaska)
  • lakes (Lake Titikaka, Lake Superior, Victoria Lake)

However, we DO use ‘the’ with the following (these are often ‘groups’ of things):

  • points on the globe (the Equator, the South Pole)
  • mountain ranges (the Rocky Mountains, the Andes)
  • island chains (the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands)
  • ‘grouped’ geographical areas (the East, the West coast)
  • rivers, seas, and oceans (the Amazon, the Pacific Ocean, the Nile River)
  • deserts (the Sahara Desert)
  • groups of lakes (the Great Lakes)

Rule #3: Use or non-use of an article changes depending on what you are focusing on.

This is tricky rule (and something we will study in more detail in the Level B2 course). Here’s an example:

  1. They are building a prison near here.
  2. He has been sent to prison for 5 years.

Both sentences refer to prisons, but sentence 1 is talking about a prison as a physical building, a landmark. However, sentence 2 is talking about prison as a place where you are no longer free and part of society – it is referring to the purpose of the prison. Here’s another example:

  1. Turn left at the school and walk straight on for 50 metres..
  2. He never liked school – he’s more interested in playing sports.

In sentence 1, the word ‘school’ is used to talk about a physical structure, a landmark for directions. In sentence 2, we are focusing on the purpose – a place of education and academic work.

Rule #4: Languages and nationalities generally have no article.

  • I was never very good at French when I was at school.
  • I was never very good at the French when I was at school.
  • He’s Italian. He comes from Rome I think..
  • He’s the Italian. He comes from Rome I think.

Rule #5: Some of the rules above (and in the previous lessons here and here) can be overruled if we are being specific.

  • The England I remember used to be so much better than it is today.
  • I still remember the French I learned when I was a child.
  • I love the music they play in that nightclub.

Rule #6: If you already have a determiner, we don’t use an article

  • Have you see a textbook around here? I’ve lost mine!
  • Have you seen my textbook around here? I’ve lost it!
  • I need to use the computer.
  • I need to use your computer.

Now test your skills with these more advanced rules for using articles with this quiz.