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When do we use “a/an” and when do we use “the”?

Articles in English are used to modify, or add to the meaning, of a noun. We use the when we talk about:

  1. only one person, place, or thing
  2. a person, place, or thing that is already understood or has been mentioned

We use a/an when we talk about:

  1. a person, place, or thing in general, not referring to only one
  2. a person, place, or thing for the first time

Example:

John wants to buy a car (We don’t know which one).  Yesterday, his friend told him about a car (We still don’t know which one) he saw for sale.  John went and looked at the car (The one his friend saw) and bought it.

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