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Avoid These 5 Common Article Mistakes

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

English articles can be tough. Some languages don't have them. Others have them but follow slightly different rules. To help you improve your use of articles, here are five common mistakes and how to fix them!

1. Job titles and statuses

Incorrect: "I am engineer."

Correct: "I am an engineer."

Incorrect: "She's refugee."

Correct: "She's a refugee."

If you are talking about your job or status, you must use an article! If there is only ONE job in a company that has a particular job title, use the definite article, "the." For instance: "My father is the Marketing Director of his company." Otherwise, use "a" or "an," such as in the example above.

2. Adjectives followed by nouns

Incorrect: "He's busy man."

Correct: "He's a busy man."

Incorrect: "It was very big problem."

Correct: "It was a very big problem."

You must use an article before a singular count noun, even if there is an adjective, or an adverb and an adjective, before the noun.

3. Public places

Incorrect: I'm going to grocery store.

Correct: I'm going to the grocery store.

Incorrect: "She's at library."

Correct: "She's at the library."

For most public places, you must use the definite article, "the." Even if there is more than one! For example: "She's at the library / the bank / the gas station / the mall / etc."

4. General statements

Incorrect: "I like the apples."

Correct: "I like apples."

Incorrect: "I think the people are usually good."

Correct: "I think people are usually good."

If you are making a general statement, such as about ALL apples or ALL people, do not use the definite article. This is true for plural countable nouns (apples, cars, tables, people, etc.) and for non-count nouns (ex. "Water is wet.") You can use the indefinite article for regular singular count nouns to make general statements as well (ex. "An apple is red") but it's much more common to simply use the plural form.

5. Superlatives

Incorrect: "She's best player on the team."

Correct: "She's the best player on the team."

Incorrect: "This is coldest day I've ever experienced in my life!"

Correct: "This is the coldest day I've ever experienced in my life!"

In 99% of cases, you must use the definite article "the" before a superlative adjective.

That's it! Were you making any of these mistakes before you read this post? If you were, that's okay. I hope you feel more confident now, and that you will apply this knowledge to your future English conversations, typed messages, etc.

You can do it!

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