Key Grammar Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

​Our last key grammar lesson looked at referencing. Now we are going to study the use of articles. This is one of the trickiest pieces of English grammar to use accurately but it cannot be avoided because it’s such an important part of the language. If you need to get a band 7 score or higher you need to use articles accurately the majority of the time.

In today’s lesson, complete the exercise below to find out how much you already know about articles. Then read our article rules carefully and complete the second exercise. Don’t worry if you don’t get a perfect score, the grammar of articles can be complex and IELTS examiners know this. If you still have questions, write them in the comments section at the bottom of this blog post.

Task 1 – INTERACTIVE exercise (a / an / the / x)

​Read the sample task 2 question and model essay and write the appropriate article in the gap. 
You can write either a, an, the or x if no article is required, or click once on an article and once again on a blank space.
Some people say that the best way to improve public health is to increase the number of sports facilities. Others, however, say that this would have little effect on public health and that other measures are required.

Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

a   ·  an   ·  x   ·  the  
Click or touch a word above
Whether building more sport facilities and gyms is best way to improve public health is debatable. In my opinion, it is important to build more sports centers but governments need to take other measures too.
There is no denying fact that playing sports and games improves person’s physical and mental health. When we engage ourselves in sport, circulation of blood through our body improves ensuring that every cell gets adequate oxygen. Sports and games also improve our mental health and intellectual skills. According to old Persian proverb, wisdom can only be found in a healthy body. Obviously if body is not healthy, mind cannot be healthy either. Lack of adequate facilities is one of reasons that prevent people from playing sports. By building more sports facilities in towns and villages we can encourage more and more people to get physically active.
On flip side, there is very little we can achieve by simply increasing number of sports clubs and gyms. Nutrition is as important as physical activity. If people do not eat right they will not be healthy even if they spend hours in the gym. Studies after studies have shown that unhealthy eating habits are on the rise among young people. There are also lots of people who cannot afford healthy food. They will not gain much from building more sports facilities. I am not saying that governments should not build more gyms or sports centers. However, in my opinion, ensuring that everyone can afford healthy food and creating awareness about importance of eating right are more important.
To conclude, while it is true that sports centers play an important role in improving public health, claiming that building more of them is the best way to achieve public health is a mistake. I am not against governments building more sports facilities; however, in my opinion, authorities must also ensure that everyone can afford nutritious food.

Task 2 – Articles Review

​Now let’s review some rules concerning articles in English.

a / an

Use a/an (the indefinite article) with singular countable nouns.
  • The first time you mention a thing or person: There was a rise in inflation during the second half of the year.


  • When you say what something is: It is a large percentage.


  • When you say what someone does: She is a teacher.

  • in some fixed expressions: Twice a year.


Use the (the definite article) …
  • …when you talk about something you have already mentioned beforeThere was a rise in inflation. Prices of basic foodstuffs increased because of the rise in inflation. 

  • …when you name a processThe circulation of blood around the body improves when you do a sport. The recycling of aluminium is a long and complex process.

  • …when the context makes it clear what you are referring toHe opened the door.


  • …when you talk about places in a town: My town is very historical because of the ancient roman amphitheater and fort.


  • …with superlativesThe best IELTS site on the internet is (of course).

  • … when you state a country with a plural name or that has a title (republic/kingdom of…) before the country name. The United States of America is an English speaking country. The Republic of Indonesia is the most populous country in South East Asia.

​There are many set phrases which require the (the definite article). Many of the phrases below can be found in the text in Task 1 above. If you don’t know them already, then try to learn them so you can use them in your speaking and writing.
  1. There is no denying the fact that…
  2. One of the reasons I agree is that….
  3. On the flip side….
  4. The number of … is rising.
  5. We cannot overstate the importance of …
  6. The basics of English are easy to learn.

IMPORTANTLY don’t use the… 
  • …when you are speaking in general (with plural and uncountable nouns): We usually see sales of food and toys rise as we approach Christmas. Helium is used in a number of important medical situations.
  • …for proper nouns: English is an international language.


​Let’s test if you have improved your use of articles. Read the Writing Task 2 question and answer and fill in the blanks in the text with a or an, the, or x if no article is needed.
Studying the English language in an English-speaking country is the best but not the only way to learn the language.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?

x   ·  a   ·  an   ·  the  
Click or touch a word above
There are many benefits to studying language in country where it is widely spoken. Therefore, it is good idea to study English in a country such as Britain or USA. However, for people who cannot study abroad, there are also other effective ways to learn a foreign language.
These days, students in non-English-speaking countries commonly learn English in high schools and universities. Although their spoken English is often not that accurate or fluent, their knowledge of grammar is often quite good. A good understanding of grammar is extremely important when students come to English-speaking country to try and perfect their use of language.
Studying basics of English at secondary school in one’s home country is less stressful than learning language while overseas. This is because students living at home do not have the anxiety caused by problems such as finding accommodation, how to pay for their accommodation and living costs, and trying to survive in foreign country where day to day living away from support networks of friends and family may cause stress.
On the other hand, there are several obvious advantages to learning English in English speaking countries. Every day there are frequent chances to practice listening to and speaking with native speakers. Students can immerse themselves in the language and experience culture first-hand, which is great help if you want to improve your fluency quickly. This is especially true if one chooses to live with local family, as exchange student for example. Furthermore, if students attend English language school full-time, the teachers will be native speakers. In this case, not only will one’s speaking and listening skills improve, but attention can be given to developing reading and writing skills as well.
In conclusion, even though it is clearly desirable to study English in English-speaking country, reasonable level of English can be achieved in one’s own country if student is hardworking and motivated to improve.

​We hope this has helped you understand more about articles. If you have questions about these exercises, leave a comment below. If you have problems with any particular grammar points and would like to write a post to help you, then leave a comment below about the problem and we will try to get back to you as fast as we can.

Our next key grammar lesson is about Infinitives of Purpose.