Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"
Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"

Some words change meaning if you add an article.

Such a small change can make a huge difference!

For instances like these, grammar really matters!

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It also uses AI to help you practice pronunciation.

What inspired this episode?

3 Keys student Vanessa heard the episode where we teach food slang.

  • nosh
  • grub

She posted sentences to practice these in our Facebook group.

One of these sentences contained a minor error that greatly changed the meaning.

  • I’m going to nosh on a grub.

This means you’re going to eat a worm.

Countable and uncountable nouns

For some nouns, the meaning changes if it’s uncountable or countable.

This happens most often with nouns used as slang.

A countable noun is something you can count.

It is usually preceded by an article.

  • an apple
  • a tree

Uncountable nouns are things that cannot be counted.

They need no article.

  • water
  • air

#1 Grub vs. a grub

As an uncountable noun, grub is slang that means ‘food.’

  • Anybody want some grub?
  • This grub is delicious!

If it is countable, we add an article to make it ‘a grub’ or ‘the grubs.’

These are the larva of a beetle.

They look like fat, juicy worms.

  • I found a bunch of grubs under the log.
  • I can’t believe he ate that grub!

#2: Bomb vs. a bomb

We use the word ‘bomb’ to mean something is cool or awesome.

It is uncountable, and therefore does not have an article.

  • That party was bomb!
  • This pizza is bomb.

If you had an article to this, it becomes an explosive device.

  • The office was evacuated because a bomb was in the building.
  • The bomb was detonated at 5 p.m.

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#3 Hip vs. a hip

As slang, ‘hip’ means something trendy or popular.

  • She’s very hip! She always wears the latest fashions.
  • This song is hip. I hear it on the radio every day!

We also use ‘hip to’ when referring to awareness about somethimg.

  • He’s hip to all the drama between his friends.

As a countable noun, it describes part of the body.

A hip describes two different body parts.

  • flesh between your waist and upper leg
  • the bones that make up the joints between the waist and leg

#4: Coin vs a coin

‘Coin’ is slang for money.

  • This is going to cost a lot of coin.
  • How much coin do you have in the bank?

As a countable noun, it is related but has a different meaning.

A coin is a metal piece of money.

Each country’s money system has different coins.

In the U.S., we have pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters.

We also have half dollars, sometimes called 50 cent pieces, but they are not widely circulated.

Similarly, we have dollar coins but they also are fairly rare.

#5: Chill vs. a chill

We tell someone to ‘chill’ when they should relax or calm down.

We also use it as slang to describe something as relaxed.

  • The party was pretty chill.

As a countable noun, we add an article and the meaning changes.

It then means one of two things: a cold feeling or a creepy, scary feeling.

  • I feel a chill in here. Can I borrow your sweater?
  • She felt a chill run down her spine during the scary movie.

We often use this idiomatic expression of something “running down our spine” when we describe a spooky feeling.

#6: Dawg vs. a dog 

You have likely heard someone called ‘dawg’ or ‘my dawg’ in movies or on television.

This is a term of affection for a friend.

  • Hey dawg, what’s up?

As you surely know, as a countable noun this is an animal.

  • My dog is the sweetest animal and he loves kids!
  • Can I pet your dog?

Though these are spelled differently, they are pronounced the same.

Where to use these on IELTS

The slang version for each of these is perfect for Speaking Part 1 and Part 2.

You need a variety of vocabulary for a 7+ in that scoring section.

A great way to satisfy this requirement is to use slang.

However, be aware that if you add an article to any of these, the meaning will change.

This is one area where grammar really matters!


You often hear us say not to focus so much on grammar.

This is because it is easier to raise scores in the other sections quickly with strategies.

However, there are some aspects about grammar that you should definitely be aware of for IELTS.

One of these is how adding an article can change a noun’s meaning.

This is most common with slang.

Practice using today’s slang when answering Speaking Part 1 and Part 2 questions.

Pay attention to article usage!

For all the strategies you need for IELTS, sign up for our study system, 3 Keys IELTS.

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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