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2018

Improve your English - Article A, AN, The

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Despite the fact that articles are some of the most frequently used words in English, many people get confused while choosing the right article in a sentence or deciding if at all an article is needed. This happens because we all use articles generously in our conversations but lack a clear understanding of how to use them or what their role is in a sentence. This blog will touch upon areas like type of articles, grammatical understanding of articles, common errors in use of articles etc.

 

Type of Articles: There are two types of articles namely Definite Article and Indefinite articles. Let us discuss about each type of articles.

Definite Articles: There is only one definite article in English namely "The". It can be used with both countable as well as uncountable nouns. Article "The" can be used in following cases:

1. Use the before a noun which is already mentioned in a sentence:

  • Example: There is a job available in our company. The job will involve international travel.

2. Use the to Indicate certainty of noun: When a noun is preceded by definite article, it indicate that the noun is specific or particular:

  • Examples: I was happy to see the man who saved my dog.

3. Use the to identify a particular person or object:

  • Example : The person who directed this film is a famous film director.

4. Use the to refer to people or objects that are unique:

  • Example : You can travel anywhere in the world.

5. Use the before superlatives and ordinal numbers:

  • Example : This is the tallest building in the world.

6. Use the to refer to a whole group of people:

  • Example :
    • The Patels are very hard working people.

    •  

      Bill Gates has donated a lot of money to the poor 

7. Use the with decades:

  • Example: He was born in the eighties


8. Use the with countries that have plural names:

  • Example: I go to the Netherlands frequently as part of my job

9. Use the with countries that include the words "republic", "kingdom", or "states" in their names:

  • Example :
    • She is visiting the United States.
    • James is from the Republic of Ireland.

10. Use the with newspaper names:

  • Example: My cousin works with The New York Times

11. Use the with the names of families:

  • Example: The Mehtas are coming for dinner tonight.

12. Use the in the geographical areas:

  • Example :
    • Names of rivers, oceans and seas: the Ganga, the Hind Mahasagar
    • Points on the globe: the Equator, the North Pole
    • geographical areas: the Middle East, the West
    • deserts, forests, gulfs, and peninsulas: the Sahara, the Persian Gulf, the Black Forest, the Iberian Peninsula

Indefinite Articles:

There are two indefinite articles namely "a" and "an". Both these articles are singular which means they can be used only with singular and countable nouns. Moreover, unlike indefinite articles, they do not indicate certainty of a noun. Use of an indefinite article implies any member of a group but does not refer to any specific member.

When to use indefinite articles?
Indefinite articles are opposite to their counterpart i.e., definite article. They are used when a noun is not certain. When a speaker is referring to an object which is not specific, article "a" or "an" may be used instead of "the".

Example: "When I was at the park, I saw a monkey carrying bananas!" Here, we're talking about a single, non-specific monkey.

Example: "My daughter really wants a gift for Diwali." This refers to any gift. Here we are not talking about any specific gift.

Choice between "a" and "an":

Whether to use article "a" or "an" depends on the sound of the word which proceeds the article. If the article is followed by a word beginning with consonant sound, use "a". On the other hand if the article is followed by a word beginning with vowel sound, use "an".

Examples:

  • a + singular noun beginning with a consonant sound: a boy; a car; a man; a hotel; a cat etc
  • an + singular noun beginning with a vowel sound : an elephant; an egg; an apple etc.

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