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Which of these is better to say?

An English exam will be on Monday.

English exam will be on Monday.

The English exam will be on Monday.

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Please remember to capitalize each sentence and to use the appropriate punctuation at the end. Thank you! –  snailplane Apr 9 at 17:53

3 Answers 3

Not the middle option, but the rest of it really depends on context.


Question: Dolores, do you have any tests next week?

Yes, I have two; I have an English exam on Monday, and I have a geometry exam on Wednesday.

Dolores uses the indefinite article because she's referring to each exam as one generic test. She could also say:

Yes, I have two; I have one English exam on Monday, and I have another exam (a geometry exam) on Wednesday.

Those both mean the same thing.


Question: Will there be any language proficiency exams next month?

Yes, there are two, and both are held on the first week of the month. The English exam will be on Monday, and the German exam will be on Thursday.

Because the person mentioned the exams in the previous sentence, the definite article is used, thus pointing back to the preceding sentence:

Yes, there are two, and both are held on the first week of the month. The English exam [I alluded to] will be on Monday [of the first week of the month], and the German exam [I alluded to] will be on Thursday [of the first week of the month].


I'm having trouble thinking of a context where I would use no article, unless the word exam was pluralized:

Question: How will the exams be scheduled this year?

English exams will be on Monday, science exams will be on Tuesday, history exams will be on Wednesday, and all other exams will be held on Thursday.

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The version with the is fine, assuming it's contextually appropriate—most likely, a test has already been mentioned and "the test" refers back to it. Here, "the test" is probably old information, something the speaker expects the listener to know about already.

The English exam will be on Monday.

The version with a is strange because "a test" represents new information, and in English there's a broad preference for subjects that represent old information. To avoid this, we can use an existential construction with the dummy subject there:

There will be an English exam on Monday.

This sentence is better. It's not a grammatical requirement, though—the non-existential version is also grammatical. There are other ways to avoid placing new information in subject position; as in J.R's answer, you can instead write:

I have an English exam on Monday.

Here, the subject I represents old information (in most cases the listener already knows that the speaker exists).

The version without an article is ungrammatical, though in informal speech it might be elided.

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You must use an article.

If you are talking about a particular English exam, use “the”. If you are talking about any English exam, use “a”. Usually, I think, you would have one particular exam in mind, so you would use “the”.

For example:

Q: Teacher, what tests do we have coming up?

A: The English exam will be on Monday and the Math exam will be on Thursday.

But you could also say:

Oh no, I forgot that I have an English exam on Monday.

Here you're not worried about the particular test, just that there is one.

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And if I say it without article, would it be right? What do you think of it? Tell me please. –  user5369 Apr 9 at 21:00
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If you mean, "English exam will be..." or "...I have English exam", that's completely wrong. By the way, it's "if I say it without an article,". –  Phil Perry Apr 9 at 23:00

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