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In English grammar, a word that is employed to modify a noun is called an article. To understand the purpose and use of articles, examine definite and indefinite articles in this article, and analyze article usage with examples.
Articles – An Overview
An article is a word utilized to change a noun, which is a person, place, object, or idea. Technically, an article is considered an adjective, which is any word that changes a noun. Usually, adjectives change nouns through the description, but articles are used rather than point out or refer to nouns. There are two distinct types of articles that we use in writing and conversation to point out or refer to a noun or group of nouns: definite and indefinite articles.
Let’s start by looking at the definite article. This article is the word ‘the,’ and it guides directly to a specific noun or groups of nouns. For example:
- the freckles on my face
- the alligator in the river
- the breakfast burrito on my table
Each noun or group of nouns being directed to – in these cases freckles, alligator, and breakfast burrito – is direct and clear.
Indefinite articles are the words ‘a’ and ‘an’ and each of these articles is used to direct to a noun, but the noun being directed to is not a typical person, place, object, or idea. It can be any noun from a set of nouns. For instance:
- a Ford from the car lot
- an occurrence in history
In each case, the noun is not precise. The Ford could be any Ford car available for purchase, and the occurrence could be any occurrence in the history of the world.
Usage of Definite Article: the
‘The’ is utilized to show a particular person(s) or thing(s) in the case of common nouns. Proper nouns normally do not take an article.
o The man is jogging. (A particular man)
o I saw the boy robbing.
o Where is the pen I gave you last month?
o I gave him a pencil, but he lost the pencil. (‘a pencil’ became ‘the pencil’ in the second clause because that pencil was not a random pencil anymore.)
Sometimes ‘the’ is utilized to generalize a set/whole class.
o The dog is a loyal animal. (Refers to the entire species of dog.)
o The English are industrious. (Directs to the people of England as a nation)
o The honest are respected. (The+adjectives = plural noun)
o The poor are not always dishonest. (The+adjectives = plural noun)
To particularise a non-count noun ‘the’ is needed before it.
o The water of the Arctic sea is freezing.
o Please return the cash I lent you last year.
‘The’ is compulsory before a thing that is only one of a type in the universe.
o The moon is shining tonight.
o The earth is moving around the sun.
Use of ‘the’ before geographical places :
Employing ‘the’ with geographical nouns normally depends on the size and plurality of the things those nouns guide to. ‘The’ is generally used everywhere except in some circumstances. So, it’s more reasonable to know those exceptions first.
The’ must not precede:
o Names of continents: Asia, Europe, North America, Antarctica, Australia, Africa, South America.
o Names of countries: Australia, Bolivia, England, France, Spain, etc.
o Names of states, cities, or towns: Los Angeles, Sydney, London, Alaska,
o Names of streets: George street, Albion Street, New town street,
o Names of singular lakes and bays: Lake Carey, Lake Eyre, Lake Hillier, Shark Bay,
o Names of single mountains: are Mount Everest, Mount Solitary, Mount Bindo, Mount Fuji, etc.
o Names of single islands: Easter Island, Bird Island, Fatima Island, Bare Island,
o Names of languages: Spanish, English, Russian, (When ‘the’ precedes these nouns, they refer to the population of those languages.)
o Names of sports: cricket, football, basketball,
o Names of discipline/subject of studies: biology, history, computer science, mathematics,
‘The’ is a most used article in English. Except for the list said above and proper nouns, ‘the’ is used before almost all the nouns which symbolize something definite/particular. The above list has some opposite factors also. Those factors are described in the following list:
‘The’ must precede:
o Names of oceans, gulfs, seas, and rivers: the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Coral Sea, the Timor Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Nile, the Murray River, the Darling River, etc.
o Names of countries with the united states or islands: the United States of America (the USA), the UK, the UAE, the Philippines, etc.
o Names of great lakes: the African Great Lakes, the Great Lakes,
o Names of mountain ranges: the Alps, the Andes, the Himalayas, etc.
o Names of a group of Islands: the Andamans, the West Indies, etc.
When to use the indefinite articles? How do you know?
The choice of the article is based upon the phonetic (sound) grade of the first letter in a word, not on the orthographic (written) indication of the letter. If the first letter constructs a vowel-type sound, you use “an”; if the first letter would construct a consonant-type sound, you use “a.” Yet, even if you follow these essential rules when choosing to use “a” or “an,” remember that there are some exceptions to these rules.
“A” reaches before words that start with consonants.
- a cat
- a dog
- a purple onion
- a buffalo
- a big apple
“An” reaches before words that start with vowels:
- an apricot
- an egg
- an Indian
- an orbit
- an uprising
Use “an” before a silent or unsounded “h.” Because the “h” does not have any phonetic expression or audible sound, the sound that pursues the article is a vowel; consequently, “an” is used.
- an honorable peace
- an honest error
When “u” has the same sound as the “y” in “you,” or “o” makes the same sound as “w” in “won,” then a is used. The word-initial “y” sound (“unicorn”) is a glide [j] phonetically, which includes consonantal properties; therefore, it is treated as a consonant, requiring “a.”
- a union
- a united front
- a unicorn
- a used napkin
- a U.S. ship
- a one-legged man
We hope that now you’ve mastered definite and indefinite articles, and also the usage and exceptions. Make sure that the rest of your grammar lessons. These grammar lessons are very important in learning English. You can also learn the other detailed notes and practices regarding learning English through our Entri Learning App.