Cases where articles should not be used
With uncountable nouns
Articles are not used with uncountable nouns when we make general statements.
I love coffee. (NOT... a coffee OR the coffee)
Milk is rich in nutrients. (NOT The milk OR a milk)
We can't do without water. (NOT The water OR a water)
She likes reading books. (NOT...the reading books OR a reading books)
With the names of countries
We do not use articles with the names of countries.
Japan is a developed nation. (NOT The Japan)
I have been to England. (NOT...to the England)
India is a secular republic. (NOT The India)
He has just returned from South Africa. (NOT …the South Africa)
But we use 'the' if the name of the country or organization specifically states that it is a collection of states. (For example, The United States, The United Arab Emirates, The United Nations etc.)
He is leaving for the United States tomorrow.
The United Nations is an international organization of countries created to promote world peace and cooperation.
With the names of languages
We do not use articles with the names of languages.
Hindi is the national language of India.
It is not easy to learn French.
English is spoken in many parts of the world.
With the names of meals
We do not use articles with the names of meals.
We have lunch at midday. (NOT...the lunch)
We have dinner in the evening. (NOT...the dinner)
Breakfast is the first meal of the day. (NOT...the breakfast)
With proper nouns
We do not use articles with proper nouns (the names of people, places etc.)
Alice is an architect. (NOT The Alice or a Alice)
Mary is my friend. (NOT The Mary)
Delhi is the capital of India.
But we use 'the' with plural names.
We are having dinner with the Smiths.
The Sharmas are very kind.
With titles and names
We do not use articles with titles and names.
Princess Diana was killed in a car accident.
President Kennedy was assassinated.
But we say, the queen of England, the President of USA
We do not use articles before years.
India won freedom in 1947. (NOT...in the 1947)
I was born in 1979.
With possessives and demonstratives
We do not use articles before possessives (my, your, their etc.) and demonstratives (this, that, these, those).
This is my book. (NOT This is a my book.)
I like this car. (NOT I like the this car.)
Articles are not used to talk about the coming or last day/month.
See you on Friday. (=Coming Friday)
We are leaving for the US next week. (NOT …the next week.)
But we use articles with the names of days of the week and months if we are talking about particular days or months.
We met on a rainy Friday.
It was a wet Monday in May.
She died on the Thursday after the accident.
The articles are not used:
1. Before proper, material and abstract nouns used in a general sense:
London, France, Tom, gold, rice, honesty, virtue
Paris is the capital of France. (NOT The Paris is …)
Gold is a precious metal. (NOT The gold is a …)
Honesty is the best policy.
But we say, the United States, the United Arab Emirates etc.
2. Before a common noun used in its commonest sense:
Man is mortal.
Iron is a useful metal.
3. In certain phrases made up of a preposition + noun:
Examples are: on foot, at school, from top to bottom, at home, in bed, by train, by car, in debt, in hand, on earth, at noon, on board, in jest, at best, at worst etc.
He is in debt. (NOT He is in the debt.)
He is at school. (NOT He is at the school.)
He spent the whole day in bed.
4. In certain phrases consisting of a transitive verb and its object:
Give ear, set sail, take heart, send word, catch fire, take offence, leave office, leave home, leave office etc.
He took offence at my words. (BUT NOT He took the offence at my words.)
She left home in the morning. (BUT NOT She left the home in the morning.)
5. Before the names of continents, countries, capes, cities, towns, days, months, arts, languages, sciences, some diseases etc.
January, March, physics, English, Tokyo, Beijing, Delhi, Tuesday, Friday, Asia, America etc.
December is a cold month.
English is spoken all over the world.
6. Before common nouns when they go in pairs:
Both husband and wife received serious injuries.
7. Before plural nouns used to denote a class:
Apples are red.
Camels are useful animals.
Warm clothes are necessary in cold climates.
8. Before the nouns following kind of:
What kind of flower is it? (NOT What kind of a flower is it?)
9. Before meal-time
He was at dinner.
Breakfast was served at night. (BUT NOT The breakfast was served at night.)
Some special points
Compare the pairs of sentences given below:
I have a black and white cow. (Only one cow)
I have a black and a white cow. (Two cows)
The secretary and accountant is present. (Here the nouns secretary and accountant refer to the same person.)
The secretary and the accountant were present. (Here the repetition of the articles implies that the secretary and the accountant are different persons.)
Articles are not used:
1. before the name of a person:
Example: I am a fan of Michael Jackson. (NOT: I am a fan of the Michael Jackson)
2. before the name of a place, town, country, street, or road.
Example: Barcelona is a beautiful city. (NOT: The Barcelona is a beautiful city.)
3. before names of materials.
Example: Gold is found in Australia. (NOT: The gold is found in Australia.)
4. before abstract nouns used in a general sense.
Example: You cannot buy happiness.
4. Difference in Meaning with Use of Articles
It helps to observe the following rules:
When we use two or more adjectives to describe the same person or thing, we use the article only before the first adjective.
EXAMPLE: He talked to a tall and blonde woman. (He talked to a (one) woman who was tall and blonde.)
When we use two or more adjectives to refer to more than one person or thing, we use the article before each adjective