'The', 'a' and 'and' - Articles

Articles may appear to be small and unimportant words, but they can have a big impact on your writing!

Articles in English do not carry meaning in the sense that they refer to something, such as an object (book) or an activity (run). Nevertheless they can change meaning as they can determine to how many and to which objects a speaker refers. Here we explain why they are so important and provide plenty of links to learn more about articles.

Why are articles important?

Articles explain whether a speaker refers to a specific objecta whole group of things or any member of that group. Mistakes with articles are especially confusing in written English, as readers cannot ask the writer what s/he meant. A sentence such as ‘Book is a good source of information about the topic discussed in this essay’ (yes, this is WRONG!), for example, does not tell the reader whether

the writer means a specific book that contains useful information (The book is …)

whether the writer wants to suggest that consulting any book might be helpful (a book)

or whether s/he indicates that there are many publications on the topic (Books are a good source of information…).

If you think you need more explanation or would like to practise the use of articles, have a look at the material listed below.

How to use articles - theory and practice

A comprehensive and clear explanation of the rules of article use, linked to two exercises. 
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/esl/eslart.html

As the other tutorials from Monash University, this one explains the use of articles with the examples from a short text. If you want to have a short list of the rules, this is not the best page for you, but it is excellent to understand the use of articles in context. http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/llonline/grammar/articles/index.xml

This page discusses the difference between countable and uncountable nouns before explaining how articles are used correctly with each of these group. Reading through the text might take longer than looking at a table, but it gives you more in-depth information about the correct use of articles. The page includes a short exercise. 
http://www.rpi.edu/web/writingcenter/esl.html

A short explanation that uses examples from a text, followed by an exercise.
http://esl.about.com/library/beginner/blathe.htm

A very short explanation followed by two exercises. From the main page, go to ‘Stage 2: Exercises’ and choose ‘The definite Article’.
http://vlc.polyu.edu.hk/common/

The following websites have online quizzes to practise your articles.
http://a4esl.org/q/h/9901/cw-articles.html
http://www.learn4good.com/languages/evrd_grammar/article_ex.htm
http://www.myenglishgrammar.com/english/exercise-6-articles.html