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Articles- Types, Examples, and Usage

Articles are words that define a noun as specific or unspecific. The English language has two types of articles- definite and indefinite. 

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Definite Articles

There is only one definite article in the English language, which is ‘the’.

  1. The definite article is used before singular and plural nouns. It must be noted that to use the article, ‘the’ the noun must be specified.

For example: The girl is pretty.

  1. ‘The’ can be used with uncountable nouns.

For example: I love to sail over the water.

  1. Use ‘the’ before superlatives and ordinal numbers.

For example: This is the highest building in New York.

  1. You may use the article, ‘the’ with adjectives that refer to a whole group of people.

For example: The elderly require special attention.

  1. Use the article, ‘the’ with names of geographical areas, rivers, mountain ranges, groups of islands, canals, and oceans.

For example: They are travelling to the Arctic.

  1. Use the article, ‘the’ with the names of famous buildings, works of art, museums, or monuments.

For example: I would like to visit the Eiffel Tower.

Indefinite Articles

The indefinite articles may take two forms- ‘a’ or ‘an’.

  • The article, ‘a’ must be used when the word/noun next to it begins with a consonant. 
  • The article, ‘an’ must be used when the word/noun next to it begins with a vowel. 

Using the article- A

The article, ‘a’ is used with singular nouns that have been used for the first time in a text. 

For example- She is a girl. The girl is pretty.

In the above example, when the noun, girl is used for the first time in a sentence, it is preceded with the article, ‘a’. It must be noted that the reason behind using this article is also that the noun here is singular and begins with a consonant.

Using the article- An

The article, ‘an’ is used with singular nouns that begin with vowels (a, e, i, o, u) or begin with words that have a vowel sound. 

For example- Please hand me an autobiography; any autobiography will do.

Exceptions: Choosing A or An

There are a few exceptions to the general rule of using the article ‘a’ before words that start with consonants and ‘an’ before words that begin with vowels. This is because of the sounds that these words create.

It must be noted that the articles ‘a’ or ‘an’ do not only depend upon the first letter of the noun (succeeding word) beginning with a vowel or consonant. It also depends upon the sound that the first letters of these words make.

For example-

  1. Incorrect: My mother is a honest woman.

Correct: My mother is an honest woman.

  1. Incorrect: She is an United States senator.

Correct: She is a United States senator.

  1. Incorrect: Do you study in an University?

Correct: Do you study in a University?

Omission of Articles

Occasionally, articles are omitted altogether before certain nouns. In these cases, the article is implied but not actually present. This implied article is sometimes called a ‘zero article’. Often, the article is omitted before nouns that refer to abstract ideas. Look at the following examples:

  1. Incorrect : Let’s go out for a dinner tonight.

Correct : Let’s go out for dinner tonight.

  1. Incorrect: The creativity is a valuable quality in children.

Correct : Creativity is a valuable quality in children.

  1. Incorrect : I like to play the baseball.

Correct : I like to play baseball.

In order to understand the usage of the articles in a better way, you must know what are vowels and consonants and they can be used.

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