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English Grammar

Articles (a / an / the)

An article is a part of speech that usually precedes nouns and pronouns. Articles can be divided into definite articles (the) and indefinite articles (a or an) grammatically equivalent. The word ‘the’ indicates a specific object or person, while ‘a’ is an unknown object or person.

How to use A and An

Articles in English grammar are parts of speech used in a sentence. They come in two forms: indefinite and definite articles. When an article is used in a sentence, it tells the reader that something exists or has been previously mentioned as being true or having a certain quality. In other words, an article is a word that modifies a noun or pronoun, for example, ‘a dog’, ‘a cat’, ‘an apple.’

We use “a” when the noun or adjective that comes next begins with a consonant sound. We use “an” when the noun or adjective that comes next begins with a vowel sound.

An apple.
A kid.
An envelope.
A tree.

Differences Between “A and An”

A and an are different forms of the same word, the indefinite article that often precedes a noun.

A is used before a noun that starts with a consonant sound (e.g., “s,” “t,” “v”).
An is used before a noun that starts with a vowel sound (e.g., “a,” “o,” “i”).

Note that the rule is not whether they start with a consonant or vowel, but whether they start with a consonant or vowel sound. This can help you decide which to use in difficult cases like words beginning in “u” or “h.”

For words where the “h” is silent, such as honor, hour, or honest, use “an.”
For words where the “u” sound is pronounced like “you,” such as university, user, usual, or utilized, use “a.”

How to use ‘The’

“The ” is typically used in accompaniment with any noun with a specific meaning, or a noun referring to a single thing. The important distinction is between countable and uncountable nouns: if the noun is something that can’t be counted or something singular, then use “the”, if it can be counted, then use “a” or “an”.

For example:

Claire is the best at guitar. (there can only be one who’s best)
Crocodiles are the most annoying animal. (there can only be one most annoying)
They are going to the NBA game tonight. (referring to a specific game).

Special cases where “The” is used

1. With the names of countries and continents

In these instances we do not use the articles at all, BUT if the country is made up of different parts or if the name is taken from common nouns, for example USA, UK, UAE, then we use the article “the” and say the USA, the UK, the UAE, the Czech Republic, The Netherlands.

2. With the words breakfast, lunch, dinner

When it comes to eating in general, the article is not used. But if you are speaking about a particular breakfast, lunch or dinner, use the.

For example:

I don’t eat breakfast.
We didn’t like the dinner.

3. With compass directions

Compass directions are written with capital letters when they designate definite regions (the North, the South, the East, the West), but not when they indicate direction or general location.

If the compass direction follows a preposition or if it designates a definite region, use the definite article the. If it follows a verb, no article is used.

For example:

They went east.
Look to the north and you will see the lake.
The North is cooler than the South.

4. With names of oceans, seas, rivers, and canals
Remember that the definite article is always used with these bodies of water.

For example, the Amazon, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, the Suez Canal.

I would like to swim in the Red Sea, and you?
The Amazon is the longest river in the world.

5. With the names of unique objects

This means that only one of the objects or things exists; it is one of a kind. Specifically, the sun, the moon, the internet, the sky, the earth.

For example:

The sun is bright.
We looked up at all the stars in the sky.
He is always on the internet.

6. With uncountable nouns

Uncountable nouns are nouns that we cannot count. A way to identify these nouns, in most cases, is that they do not add –s in the plural form.

But remember that for every rule there are many exceptions. If you are speaking about any uncountable noun in general, do not use the article. But when speaking about something specific,”the” is used.

For example:

I like bread.
I like the bread.

7. With surnames

When speaking about members of the same family collectively, the article “the” is used before the surname. Must be plural.

For example:

The Smiths are coming for dinner today.
Have you seen the Johnsons recently?

No Article

Keep in mind that if the noun is singular, countable, and nonspecific or generic (e.g., book, author), the articles “a” and “an” may be used. However, if the noun is countable and plural (e.g.., “research studies”) or uncountable (e.g., “information”) and it is being used in a nonspecific or generic way, no article is used.

Here are some specific events where there is no article usage:

No article is used when a plural countable noun is generic or nonspecific.

I bought new pens and pencils at the store.
Cats have big eyes that can see in the dark.
Babies cry a lot.

No article is used when a noncount noun is generic or nonspecific.
I bought milk and rice at the store.
We were assigned homework in this class.
There has been previous research on the topic.

Examples about articles

Here are some example sentences that include articles:

Yesterday, I bought a blouse.
I saw a car accident.
That is an excellent pencil.
Alex is training to be an engineer.
I need the food.
The movie is the definition of waste.
I was born in the west.
I saw a car.
That is an excellent pen.
She is studying to be a doctor.
I need an envelope.
The kid had the sickness.
I was working in the east.
I am an English teacher.
This is a beautiful house.
I’m eating an apple.
She didn’t read a book.
I had a headache.
I wrote the book.
I saw the robber.

Frequently Asked Questions About English Articles

What are the English articles?
English articles are a / an / the.

What are the examples of the article “a” in a sentence ?
The examples are:

I had a headache.
This is a beautiful house.
I saw a car.

What are the examples of the article “an” in a sentence ?
The examples are:

I’m eating an apple.
That is an excellent pencil.
This is an envelope.

What are the examples of the article “the” in a sentence ?
The examples are:

I need the food.
I wrote the book.
saw the robber.

Articles (a / an / the): Would you like to put into practice what you have learned about using Articles (a / an / the)? If you wish, you can explore over 20,000 interactive video lessons on EnglishCentral, improve your vocabulary, and practice pronunciation. Alternatively, during live 1-on-1 English lessons, you can review what you have learned with your personal English tutor. How about signing up for EnglishCentral and starting to learn English right away?

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