English – Articles – usage of a, an and the

There are only three articles in English: a, an and the and kind of adjective (describes the noun)

There are two types of articles these are

  1. indefinite ‘aand ‘an’

  2. definite ‘the’.

Indefinite articles – a & an

  • A and an are the indefinite articles. They refer to something not specifically known to the person you are communicating with.

  • A and an are used before nouns that introduce something or someone you have not mentioned before:-

For example:

"I saw an elephant this morning."
"I ate a banana for lunch."

  • A and an are also used when talking about your profession:-

For example:

"I am an English teacher."
"I am a builder."

  • You use a when the noun you are referring to begins with a consonant (b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y or z)

For example:

Chennai is a cosmopolitan city.”

That is a soft drink factory.

  • You use an when the noun you are referring to begins with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u)

For example:

an egg, an orange, an umbrella, an unusual problem, an usual problem, an entry, an ape, an odor, an idea, an eagle, an ugly incident

  • an honor, an umbrella, and an unbeliever.

    • Pronunciation changes this rule. It’s the sound that matters, not the spelling.

      • If the word begins with a consonant sound when we say it, we need use ‘a’

For example:

a university – "university" begin with consonant ‘y’ sound (‘yoo’) then we use a. a useful device, a unique voice, a union matter

a European country – “European” begin with consonant ‘y’ sound (‘yoo’) then we use a. a Euro currency

      • If the word begins with a vowel sound when we say it, we need to use ‘an’.

For example:

an hour – “hour” begin with vowel sound (‘h’ is silent) then we use "an”. an honest man, an hour ago, an heir to the throne, an honest and an honorable also begin with vowel sound.

Definite articles – the

  • The is used with specific nouns. The is required when the noun it refers to represents something that is one of a kind:

For example:

The moon, The earth, The Asia, The Atlantic Ocean, The lord Siva, The Jesus Christ, The Buddha, The Almighty god.

  • Geographical places: the Sound, the Sea of Japan, the Mississippi, the West, the Sahara.

  • Pluralized names (geographic, family, teams): the snakes, the buses, the women, the Indians

  • Public institutions/facilities/groups: the Sinda, the Mendaki, the European community club, the CDAC.

  • Newspapers: the new paper, the straits time

  • Nouns followed by a prepositional phrase beginning with "of": the leader of the gang, the president of our club.

Site for the parts of speech: http://www.uottawa.ca/academic/arts/writcent/hypergrammar/partsp.html


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