A, An, The Articles in Grammar – Indefinite Articles & Definite Articles

Articles ‘A’ ‘AN’ ‘THE’ -Indefinte Articles & Definite Article.

A, An, The Articles in Grammar – Indefinite Articles & Definite Articles

Let’s clear the concept of the use of ‘a,’ ‘an,’ ‘the’ articles in grammar.  These are very small words, but without the proper use of it, sentences will have errors.

Hence, the correct use of articles is mandatory. In this lesson, we will learn the basics of articles, its rules with a lot of examples.

I hope, you will enjoy the whole session and clear all your doubts.

Let’s start ‘a’, ‘an’, ‘the’ articles!

Article A, An, The in Grammar

What is article?

Articles mean simply a few words (a, an, the) which define whether the noun is specific or unspecific.

articles a an the
Fig. 1 Articles a an the

Articles Examples

There are so many examples of articles, which we use every time in our daily life.

Few of them are illustrated for better understanding,

  • I have bought a bar of chocolate for you.
  • She has given an apple to her friend.
  • The sun is giving a huge amount of solar energy.

Article Explanation

I have seen a tiger in the village. Here, we observe followings,

  • the numbers of the tiger are specified by ‘a tiger’ and
  • village is considered as a particular village and consider ‘the village’.

These ‘a’, ‘the’, are articles.

Types of Articles -Indefinite & Definite

The article is classified into two categories:

  • Indefinite article – a, an
  • Definite article – the
indefinite articles definite articles
Fig. 2 Types of Articles – Indefinite articles and definite articles
NUMBER INDEFINITE DEFINITE
Singular a / an the
Plural nothing the
Non-Count nothing the

Indefinite Articles & Examples

Indefinite Articles

The indefinite article takes two forms.

  • A – It is placed before a consonant.
  • An – It is placed before a vowel.

Indefinite means which is not definite, or we can say, not specific. It is simply used in general meanings. The indefinite article indicates that a noun refers to general things instead of specific things.

A dolphin! It’s not a specific thing, it means any dolphin.

indefinite articles
Indefinite articles

Indefinite Articles Examples

Example of indefinite articles! We always use indefinite articles in our communications.

Let’s see, a few examples,

  • Rimi has a dog. Here, Rimi implies that she has only one dog.
  • She has an umbrella. Here, only one umbrella.
  • I like to have a cup of coffee. Here, only one cup of coffee is referred.

Indefinite articles rules

Rule #1 Use the article ‘a’ for a singular countable noun that starts with a consonant. This rule is very simple, and it is applicable for a singular countable noun. ‘a’ placed before nouns.

Examples

  • A cat
  • A bat
  • A mobile

Explanation Cat, bat, mobile, etc. are singular countable nouns and all start with a consonant. Hence, the indefinite article ‘a’ is used.

Rule #2 Use article ‘an’ for a singular countable noun that starts with a vowel or vowel sound.

Examples

  • An apple
  • An antelope
  • An ox

Explanation Apple, antelope, ox, etc. are singular countable nouns and these all are started with vowels. Hence, article ‘an’ is used before these nouns.

Rule #3 Use the article ‘a’ or ‘an’ to indicate any non-specified member of a group or category.

Example

  • We have a dog at our house.
  • There was an animal in our vicinity.
  • This can be done by a student.
  • We are going to buy a flat.

Explanation

A bird means, the category of birds is not specified. In the same way, an animal means, it is not specified which category of animals is talking about. The same is applicable to birds or flats.

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Rule #4 Use the article ‘a’ or ‘an’ to indicate one in number with respect to other numbers (i.e., more than one). Example

  • Rema has a parrot and three rabbits.
  • Rabi has an umbrella and five chocolates.

Explanation Here, ‘a’ is used before parrot to indicate one number, and ‘an’ is used before the umbrella to indicate the same.

Rule #5 Adjective may come between article and noun. Rules will be followed considering the noun.

Example

  • A strange animal in the forest.
  • A happy mind can win other’s heart.
  • I have a red pen.
  • Rita has a big basket.

Explanation

In the above example, the adjective strange, happy & red is used.

However, articles, ‘a’ is used considering the respective nouns.

Rule #6 When plural forms are to be used, that is more than one and numbers are not specified, or limited numbers, we will use ‘some’ instead of article ‘a’ and ‘an’.

Example

  • Orange to be written as some oranges.
  • Glass to be written as some glasses.
  • A pen to be changed into some pens.
  • An apple to be changed into some apples.

Explanation

When an orange to be written its plural form, article ‘an’ will be replaced by ‘some’. In the same way, it is applicable to glass, pen, apple, etc.

Rule #7 Jobs and professions If we talk about anyone’s job, use the article ‘a’.

  • There is a teacher.
  • We have a maid.

Definite Articles, Rules & Examples

Definite Articles

The definite article is the word ‘’the’’. Definite means specific. It implies the meaning of a noun to one particular thing or a specific thing. The definite article can be used with,

We say the horse is beautiful. Here, a particular horse is implied instead of any horse.

So, definite article ‘the’ should be used prior to nouns.

definite articles
Definite articles

Definite articles examples

Example of definite articles!

We are using definite articles in our communication every day.

Rimi asked Somi, “Have you attended the party of Jojo?”

The definite article ‘the’ refers to a specific party of Jojo, not a general party.

Below are some examples of the definite article used in context:

  • Can you give me the pen? [ A particular pen instead of any pen]
  • Please keep the blue box here. [ A particular box instead of any box]

Definite articles rules

Rule #1 If the specific identity of the noun is known, Use the definite article ‘the’ before the noun. This noun can be a singular noun or plural noun or countable or uncountable.

Example

  • The man walked with me for half an hour.
  • Nobody will forget the year 2020.
  • We like the Taj Mahal.
  • I like to stay long in the water.

Explanation

If we observe all the above examples, we see that the identity of nouns is known, and article ‘the’ is used.

Rule #2

If a particular noun is already mentioned earlier, use article ‘the’ before the noun.

Example

  • I went to Kolkata by bus. The bus was very comfortable.
  • I bought a mango. The mango was delicious.

Explanation

In the first article ‘a’ is used in front of the noun, bus. But when the noun bus is used again, article ‘the’ is used before it. The same is applicable for mango.

Rule #3

If an adjective or clause or phrase is used to describe the noun, article ‘the’ is used before it.

Example

  • The student gets the attention of a teacher. He gets an accolade for his work.

Explanation

In this example, clauses are used to describe the noun, ‘student’. Hence, ‘the’ is used before a noun.

Rule #4 If the noun refers to someone or something unique, article, ‘the’ to be used.

Example

  • The Newton’s law
  • The FIFA World Cup.
  • The moon
  • The sun.

Explanation

This all refers to unique things, hence, article, ‘the’ is used.

Rule #5 In the case of plural countable nouns or uncountable nouns, no articles are used if all things are expressed in general.

  • Poets are having a beautiful mind. It means all poets have a beautiful mind. We are not using, ‘the poets’.
  • I have friends. It means I have many friends in general. Here, we are not using, ‘the friends’.

Rule #6 There are a few geographical places, where article ‘the’ is used. United countries, deserts, large regions, oceans, canals, peninsulas, seas, mountain ranges, gulfs, groups of islands, rivers,

  • the United State of America
  • the Thor Desert
  • the United Arab Emirates
  • the Sacramento River
  • the Aleutians

Rule #7 Article ‘the’ cannot be used for the followings,

  • cities, – before it, ‘the’ will not be used.
  • streets, – ‘the’ will not be used.
  • states – ‘the’ will not be used.
  • countries – ‘the’ will not be used.
  • parks, – ‘the’ will not be used.
  • continents, – ‘the’ will not be used.
  • islands – ‘the’ will not be used.
  • bays, – ‘the’ will not be used.
  • single lake, – ‘the’ will not be used.
  • single mountain – ‘the’ will not be used.

For examples,

  • India – ‘the’ will not be used.
  • Oman –  ‘the’ will not be used.
  • Victoria – Palace ‘the’ will not be used.
  • Everest –  ‘the’ will not be used.

Rule #8 Articles should not be used before any determiners. (any, some, my, this)

  • Determiners mean, my, some, any, her, this, that
  • I drive my car, here, we are not writing I drive the my car.
  • Does he love this book? Here, we are not writing the this book, based on the rule.

Rule #9 Article ‘the’ is placed before musical instruments, inventions, and cultural institutions Few examples are illustrated, as below

  • The guitar
  • The computer
  • The violin
  • The harmonium
  • The Archimedes law
  • The circus
  • The film
  • The cinema
  • The piano
  • The movie

Rule #10 Use article ‘the’ with universally known things. Universally known things mean sun, moon, earth, stars, etc.  For example,

  • The sun
  • The moon
  • The earth
  • The stars
  • The evening

The moon moves around the earth. It is really awesome to see the stars in the evening.

Rule #11 Article ‘the’ is used for everyday things For example, newspapers, internet, etc.

  • The newspaper
  • The internet
  • The train

Rule #12 Article ‘the’ should not be used when we refer to an individual’s behavior or parts of an individual’s body. Example

  • Rohan enjoys most of his pass time singing songs.
  • Here, we have written, ‘his pass time’ instead of ‘his the pass time’.
  • She used to write with her right hand.
  • We have written, ‘her right hand’ instead of ‘her the right hand’.

Rule #13 If we talk about acronyms or abbreviations, definite article ‘the’ will be used only if all letters in acronym or abbreviation pronounced separately or individually, instead of a single word.

Example

  • the UN – we pronounce as the united nation.
  • MBA – no definite article, as we pronounce MBA as s single word.

Rule #14 We don’t use ‘the’ before home, as we return back to home. But when the home is specified as a description phrase, we have to use the definite article ‘the’.

Example

  • I like the home where all my family members are enjoying it.
  • Here, home is followed by a descriptive phrase.

Omission of Articles and Rules

Omission of Articles

The omission of articles means when articles are omitted without any change of the sentence’s structure or meanings.

Now, we will see a few basic rules so remember the use of indefinite articles or definite articles.

Omission of indefinite articles 

There are few rules for the omission of indefinite articles,

Rule #1 Don’t use indefinite articles, ‘a’ or ‘an’, two times in one sentence in case of the same noun.

Example,

  • Rumi is a smart and nice girl.

Explanation

  • Here, Rumi is a noun, and ‘a’ is an indefinite article. Here, ‘a’ implies Rumi is smart and nice.

Remember, if we say, Rumi is a smart and a nice girl, then the meaning will be different.

It means Rumi is a smart girl, and another a nice girl. So, two girls.

Rule #2 Indefinite articles should not be used before any material nouns.

Example,

  • The container is made of steel.

Explanation

  • Here, we are writing, ‘made of steel’ instead of ‘made of a steel’.
  • This is because steel is a material noun. So, we don’t use indefinite articles.

Remember, if we want to express the countable condition of a material noun, then we have to use an indefinite article. Like,

  • Give me a glass of water, instead of ‘give me glass of water’
  • A bottle of milk
  • Reading a storybook etc.

Rule #3 Before the meal, no indefinite articles should be used. Example,

  • Hey dear! Simi and Manu are present at dinner.

Explanation

  • We have written ‘at dinner’ instead of ‘at a dinner’, as no indefinite article is to use before meal.

Remember, if we use any adjective before meal, then indefinite article should be used.

Rule #4 Before uncountable nouns, we don’t use indefinite articles.

Example,

  • I want to have sugar in my bucket.

Explanation

Here, we don’t say, ‘I want to have a sugar’. So, indefinite articles like a, an, we don’t use with uncountable nouns.

Rule #5 We should not use any indefinite articles, before type of, kind of, variety of, sort of etc.

Example,

  • What kind of machine it is?

Explanation

  • Here, we say, ‘what kind of machine’ instead of ‘what kind of a machine’. So, we will not use indefinite article, ‘a’ or ‘an’ before ‘kind of’.

Rule #6  We should not use any indefinite articles, before meals, except an adjective is used before the meal or the meal is for a special purpose.

Example,

  • Romi has offered lunch to a beggar.

Explanation

  • Here, we say, ‘Romi has offered lunch’ instead of ‘Romi has offered a lunch’. So, we will not use the indefinite article, ‘a’ or ‘an’ before ‘meal’.

Remember, we use indefinite articles for,

  • offered a nice lunch – a used, as an adjective before meal
  • offered a lunch at her birthday party – special purpose meal

Omission of definite articles 

Certain rules for the omission of definite articles,

Rule #1 Don’t use definite article, ‘the’, before Specific names or Proper nouns, Newton, Einstein, etc.

Example,

  • Newton has discovered several laws.
  • Einstein is a world-famous scientist.

Explanation

Here, we should not write, ‘the Newton’ or ‘the Einstein’ as both are proper nouns.

Rule #2 Definite articles should not be when we talk about any specific subjects, Geography, History, etc.

Example,

  • English was my most favorite subject during my school days.
  • I really scare about Mathematics.

Explanation

Here, we have not written, ‘the English’ or ‘the Mathematics’ as both are subjects.

Rule #3 All kinds of languages will not be associated with definite articles.

Example,

  • Hey Rahul, Do you know Bengali?

Explanation

Here, we have not used definite article before the language, ‘Bengali’.

So, the correct English is ‘Bengali’ instead of ‘the Bengali’.

Rule #4 When we talk about generic plural countable nouns, we don’t use definite article.

Example,

  • Rabbits are so adorable.

Explanation

Here, we don’t say, ‘the Rabbits’. We simply omit the definite article.

Rule #5 No definite article, before uncountable nouns.

Example,

  • Cats are the busiest animals.

Explanation Here, we say, ‘cats’ instead of ‘the cats’.

Rule #6 Definite article is not used before the name of any city or town or village or state or country or continent.

Example,

  • I live in Kolkata.

Explanation Here, we don’t say, ‘the Kolkata’.

Rule #7 Definite article is not used before the name of any city or town or village or state or country or continent.

Example,

  • I live in Kolkata.

Explanation Here, we don’t say, ‘the Kolkata’. Remember there are few exceptions that we have already learned in the definite article rules.

Rule #8 When we talk about any kinds of sports or physical activities, we don’t use definite articles.

Example,

  • Rahul is playing basketball.

Explanation Here, we say, ‘playing basketball’ instead of ‘playing a basketball’.

Rule #9 If any noun comes with a numerical number, then definite article should not be used before that noun.

Example,

  • We are coming to India by AIRBUS 737.

Explanation

Here, we say, ‘by AIRBUS 737’ instead of ‘by the AIRBUS 737’.

Rule #10 When acronym or abbreviation pronounce as a single word, we don’t use definite article.

Example,

  • M.Tech
  • B.Tech
  • PhD

Explanation

Here, we say, we pronounce all above abbreviations as single word.

Rule #12 No definite article shall be used before abstract nouns.

Example,

  • Honesty can make you a happy person.

Explanation

Here, we don’t say, ‘the honesty’. There are also few cases, where, definite articles are not generally placed,

Rule #13 Seasons like Monsoon, Rainy season, etc.

Rule #14 Any festivals or holidays like Eid, Durgapuja, Christmas etc.

Rule #15 Any sort of dieses

Rule #16 Newspaper, magazine, notices

Rule #17 By + mode of transportation

Rule #18 Name of days, like Sunday, Monday, etc.

Rule #19 Name of Months like January, February, etc.

Rule #20 Name of school, college, university in general purpose

Rule #21 Name of temple, mosque, church in general purpose

Rule #22 Name of hospital in general purpose

Rule #23 Possessives

Rule #24 Few prepositional phrases;

Rule #25 When few things are used in wide meaning like Man, Woman, Humanity, Mankind etc. are used in the wide sense

Rule #26 When man, women, etc. are used in wide meaning

Rule #27 When few things are used in general meaning Science, Birth, Death, Nature, Life

Rule #28 No articles are not used before type of, kind of, variety of, sort of, etc.

Rule #29 Before God

Rule #30 Definite article ‘the’ is not used before home if the home is specially said for the person to whom we are talking about.

Rule #31 Definite article is not used before Queen or King if Queen or King is followed their names.

For example, ‘the Queen Elizabeth’ is not correct, the correct is ‘Queen Elizabeth’.

Rule #32 When we talk about a unique post, we don’t use articles. Like principal or chairman etc.

Repetition of Articles

We have seen sometimes articles are repeatedly used in many sentences. Do you have any idea that the repetition of articles also has some rules?

Let’s check it out with understanding, rules & examples!

Rule#1 When to repeat?

I have a red and a blue pen. Here, article ‘a’ is used in front of red and blue pen both. It means –

  • I have a red pen and
  • I have a blue pen,

Hence, I have two pens one is red and another is blue. Or we can take another example,

  • Rimi has a pink jacket and
  • Rimi has a white jacket,

Hence, it can be said that Rimi has two jackets one is pink and another is white. In the same way, The doctor and the engineer are two pillars to serve the nation. Here, we have understood,

  • The doctor is the pillar to serve
  • The engineer is the pillar to serve

Hence, two different persons are specified by the article, ‘the’.  So, these are examples of repetition of articles.

Rule#2 When not to repeat?

Rita has a red and green teddy bear. Here, article ‘a’ is used in front of red and green teddy bear.

Article ‘a’ is not placed individually before red or green.

It means – A red and green teddy bear, that is only one number of teddy bear which is red and green in colors.

If we say, a red and a green teddy bear, then it specifies two teddy bears instead of one.

In the same way,

  • The mother and teacher make the growth of a family well.
  • Here, article, ‘the’ is used in front of nouns ‘mother and teacher’. It specifies only one person who is mother as well as teacher.

But if we say,

  • The mother and the teacher make the growth of a family.
  • It will specify two different persons, one is mother and another is teacher.

Hence, in the case of the same people or places or things, one article to be used.

Conclusion

So, we have learned all about indefinite articles, definite articles, omission of articles ‘a’, ‘an’, ‘the’ with a lot of examples. These all tricks, rules will help to learn English grammar as well as to avert any kinds of common errors in English.

Do you have questions? Please let us know.

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