Articles A, An, The Rules with Examples! English articles are words that combine with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. There are only three articles in English, a, an, and the. This lesson will explain when to use each article and why.
Articles A, An, The Rules with Examples
- First, we have the indefinite articles, a and an. We use these when we do not know or need to specify which particular noun we are talking about: for example, “I have a book.” Indefinite articles are used with singular countable nouns.
- The form an is used before words that begin with a vowel sound, regardless of how they are spelled: an apple, an hour, an honorable woman. The form a is used before words that begin with consonant sounds: a cat, a factory, a university.
- There is also the definite article “the” We use this when we know which particular noun we are talking about: For example, “the book on the table.”
- Definite articles are used before singular and plural countable nouns and uncountable nouns: the big dog, the two books, the rice.
- When there is only one of something, we can say “a/an” or “the”: For example, “Can I borrow a/the book from you?”
- It does not matter if there is only one of something in the world – we still do not usually use “the” unless we have already mentioned it or it is obvious which one we mean. For example: “There’s a man at the door,” (= I don’t know who he is) but “The man at the door wants to see you.” (= I have already told you who he is)
- If there was only one man in the world, we would still say “a man”, not “the man”. We can also use “the” with superlatives and ordinal numbers:
- He’s the best player on the team; She’s my oldest friend; It’s the third time I’ve failed my driving test!
- We do not normally use articles with plural countable nouns (books), although we can say “some books” or “many books”.
- We do not use articles with uncountable nouns (milk), although we can say “some milk” or “a lot of milk”.
- We do not usually use articles with proper names (John), although we can say “a John Smith”.
- We do not use articles with parts of the body or clothes that we are wearing (head), or with things that we eat or drink (tea).
We do not usually use articles in certain set phrases (to bed, by car).