A, an and the: Articles


A, an and the are called Articles. These are used before nouns.
There are two types of articles: Indefinite and Definite.

‘A’ or ‘an’ comes under the Indefinite Article while ‘the’ is a Definite article. Definite article or ‘the’ points out some particular thing or person whereas Indefinite article does not specify any particular person or thing.

for example- John has seen the movie;  here we are talking about some particular movie.
John has seen a movie;  it can be any movie.

You have to use the indefinite article before singular countable nouns.
e.g: a bike, an elephant, a pen, an apple

But we can use the definite article before singular countable nouns, plural countable nouns and uncountable nouns. e.g. the pen, the pens, the sugar.

General use of A or An-

You can decide where to use a or an on the basis of sound. If a word begins with a vowel sound, we will use an;
e.g. an apple, an elephant, an avalanche
an hour, an honest person, an heir

In the second line of the example above you have noticed that the words honest, heir and hour begin with consonant words. But the initial consonant h is silent and not pronounced that is why we used ‘an’ before them.

‘A’ is used before the words beginning with consonant sound.

e.g. a mango, a tree, a book, a car
a university, a union, a European country.

In the second line of the example here the words are beginning with the sound of y, that is why a is used instead of ‘an’ before these words.

Where to use Definite Article-

1. When we have already mentioned a particular person or thing, or when it is clear from the context which one we mean. 

for example- The band you love is coming to our city. (a particular band which he or she loves)
We will meet at the club. (the club already talked about)
I read the book you gave me. (a particular book that was given to the person talking)

2. When the whole class is represented by a singular noun.

for example- The dog is a faithful animal.
The bamboo is a fast-growing plant.
The lion symbolizes strength and pride.
The smartphone is a multipurpose device.

3. Before proper nouns like names of-

1) seas and oceans, e.g. the Atlantic, the Dead Sea, the Pacific, the Caspian Sea
2) mountain-ranges, e.g. the Himalayas, the rocky mountains, The Andes
3) rivers e.g.- the Nile, the Ganges, the Amazon river
4)  deserts e.g.- the Gobi, the Thar,  the Sahara
5) canals e.g.- the Volga-don canal, the Suez canal

6) names of certain countries, which has words like kingdom, republic and united (the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic)

4. Before the names of things that are unique (only one of their kind).

e.g. The sun, the Earth, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China,

5. With the names of certain books.

e.g. the Ramayana, the Bible

6. with musical instruments.

e.g.- Jane knows how to play the guitar.
The tabla is a percussion musical instrument.

7. Before superlatives and ordinals.

e.g. Marry has the fastest toy car.
The tallest person was selected for the team.

Marry’s car won the first price.
Ronit is waiting on the third floor.

Where to use the Indefinite Article

1. To give a sense of numerical ‘one’

e.g.- A hundred centimeters maks a meter.
Yesterday a tree fell down due to heavy rain.

2. To give the vague sense of a certain.

e.g.- A thief was caught by the Police.
The company named a Kapil Kumar its marketing head. (a certain individual named Kapil Kumar)

3. To represent a whole (class in the sense of any)

e.g. A dog is a faithful animal.
A student should use his time properly.
A movie can be informational.

We can represent the whole class by using ‘the’ also, as we have mentioned in the use of definite article earlier.

Where to omit articles

You should not use articles at certain places. The use of Article will become easy if you have the knowledge about where to omit the use of articles. You may have got the idea from the uses itself but we will list the omissions also.

1. When names of substances, abstract nouns, and uncountable nouns are used in general sense.

for example- Milk is a good source of calcium.
Diamond is used in jewelry.
Knowledge makes human more efficient.

2. Before following places visited or things used for their primary purpose-

school, hospital, church, college, bed, prison
for example- We used to go to school together.
I go to church daily.
My cousin is in hospital.
I go to bed at 9:00 pm.

The is used before these words when we want to refer them as a definite place, object or building rather than to the normal activity that goes on there

for example- My relatives went to the hospital to see my cousin.
People were sitting outside the hospital.
The bed is repaired again.

3. When plural countable nouns are used in general sense.

for example- Boys prefer outdoor games.
World class athletes are a good source of motivation.

4. Before languages.

for example- I can speak Hindi fluently.
Students were taught Spanish at school.
English is spoken in many countries.

Now, from the above examples and explanations, it is clear that ‘the’ is generally used when we talk about a particular place, person or thing. But at the same time, we have to remember where to omit ‘the’.

Repetition of the Article

1. Consider the following examples-

a) Merry has a black and white cat.        b) Jane has a black and a white cat.

In the example (a)  has a cat that is partly black and partly white. On the other hand in example (b) Jane has two cats, one is black and the other is white.

2. Consider another pair of example-

a) The Producer and Director is present among us.
b) The Producer and the Director are present among us.

Here in example (a) the designations(or post) are held by the same person. While in example (b) we are talking about two different persons or the two posts are held by two different persons.

This is all about Articles. We have covered almost everything about Articles in the above explanation. Now you can use the Articles in a better and effective way.

Please tell us if you think this article may help you in better understanding the Articles.

Thanks for reading:)

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