English Grammar: Articles

English Grammar: Articles

Time to learn about how to use articles in English!

This is a part of a basic series on English grammar. You can find the other posts below:

An article is an important part of speech. English grammar is difficult, but articles in English are easy. There are two types of articles: definite articles and indefinite articles. Let us learn what they are in English:

  1. Definite articlethe
  2. Indefinite articlea/an

Definite articles are for nouns that are specific. This means you know exactly which subject or object you are talking about.

Indefinite articles are for nouns that are not specific. This means you know what kind of subject or object you are talking about, but you don’t know (or it doesn’t matter) which one specifically.

Let us compare:

  • The boy
  • A boy

The boy means there is a specific boy I am speaking about, and both the speaker and the listener know who is meant. It could be the boy that lives across the street.

A boy means there is one boy that I am speaking about, but either the speaker or the listener does not know exactly who is meant. It could be a boy that you saw.

There are two indefinite articles: a and an. You use a when the word after the article starts with a consonant letter (P, Q, T, R, C, B, etc…). You use an when the word after the articles starts with a vowel letter (A, E, U, I, O). Examples:

  • a towel
  • a chair
  • a spoon
  • an apple
  • an open store
  • an extra pen

In English, there is no difference in articles between plural or singular. The pen in the singular. The pens in the plural. However, you can not have a plural noun used with an indefinite article. You can have a pen, but you cannot have a pens. When you have plural indefinite nouns, the noun will not have an article at all. A pen and pens. Plural indefinite nouns are uncommon in English, unless they are with a pronoun like any. Pronouns will be discussed in a future post. Let us look at some examples:

  • Where are the pens? – plural definite
  • Where is the pen? – singular definite
  • I like pens. – plural indefinite
  • Where is a pen? – singular definite

As you can see, the verb (in this case are/is) changes if the noun is plural or singular. Learn more about this in the post about plurals.

Plural indefinite nouns (like in the example “I like pens”) do not use an article. Another example of a noun that does not use an article is an uncountable noun. Examples are uncountable nouns are coffee, rice, sand, and water. Examples:

  • I like coffee.
  • I eat rice.
  • I drink water.

No articles are here. These are like plural indefinite nouns, and the same rules apply here. Like plural indefinite nouns, they can also be definite. Uncountable definite nouns do use an article. Examples:

  • I like coffee.
  • I like the coffee.
  • I drink water.
  • I drink the water.

Bonus fact: “The” is the most used word in the English language. “A” is the 6th most used word. Find the full list of most used words here.

We will now take a closer look at nouns and what kind of nouns there are. Continue here:

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