We calculate the absorption spectrum of a weak probe interacting with a -shaped three-level system driven by a single pump. We find that there are four types of terms that contribute to the probe absorption: population-difference and two-photon coherence terms which derive solely from interaction with the pump (dc terms) and population-difference and two-photon coherence terms that pulsate at the pump-probe frequency offset. We find that the main features of the probe spectrum derive from the pulsating terms whereas the dc terms either interfere destructively with each other or with the pulsating terms. This is a clear extension to the three-level system of the concept of light amplification by coherence. We calculate the spectrum for three cases: (i) a degenerate population-trapped system, (ii) a degenerate system in which both transitions are population inverted, and (iii) a nondegenerate population-trapped system. The results of case (i) are similar to those for the two-level system but the population-trapped system has the advantage of avoiding pump absorption. We show that the Rabi frequency of the nonabsorbed pump can be found by determining the probe frequencies at which probe nonabsorption occurs. In (ii), the results are compared with the case where two pumps interact resonantly with a nondegenerate system. In (iii), we find that the populations in the lower states behave dispersively as a function of the pump detuning. For Rabi frequencies that are small compared to the separation between the lower levels, the lower level nearer to resonance is less populated than the other level. However, at higher Rabi frequencies, the situation is reversed. The probe spectrum contains two absorption peaks when the pump Rabi frequency is small and two emission peaks when it is large.