Articles are used as modifiers for nouns. However, some nouns do not need to be modified. In this lesson, we will learn about them.

What Are Articles in English?

What Are Articles?

Words that are used as modifiers for nouns to define them are called articles.

Articles are mostly necessary, but sometimes they cannot be used as modifiers, which is called a case of zero articles.

Why Do We Use Articles?

Articles are used to define particular or non-specific nouns. So, we need them to make ourselves clear. Actually, using different articles for the same noun makes the sentences mean differently.

She is the doctor.

Here we mean the doctor that we mentioned before and we want to refer to what we meant.

She is a doctor.

In this example, we mean her job is being a doctor like other doctors.

Types of Articles

Based on whether an article is used to define a specific noun or not, they are categorized into two groups:

Here are a few examples:

Give me the book. (definite article)

I need a book to help me research. (indefinite article)

Definite Article

The term 'the' is used as the definite article. It modifies nouns that are specific; by specific, we do not mean that the noun is a proper noun, we mean it is known by the listener and the speaker.
Usually, we use the definite article when we mentioned the noun in advance. Here are the examples:

The butter was melting in the oven.

I saw a man at the station; the man was wearing a mask.

Indefinite Article

Indefinite articles are used with non-specific nouns. Usually, we use indefinite articles to refer to a noun randomly or for the first time. Indefinite articles in English are 'a' and 'an.' For example:

An apple fell from the tree.

I need to buy a new car.

What Is the Difference between 'an' and 'a'?

With nouns that start with a vowel sound, we have to use the indefinite article 'an.' if the sound of the first letter of the following noun is not a vowel, then you can use the indefinite article 'a.' Here are the examples:

I cannot find an envelope to put the letter in it.

In this example, 'e' has a vowel sound and the sound is /e/.

A baby was left alone at the central park.

The sound of the consonant letter is /b/ and it is not a vowel, so we use the indefinite article 'a.'

the difference between 'an' and 'the'


With abbreviations and acronyms that are spelled out, or pronounced with a vowel sound in the beginning you should use the indefinite article 'an'; even if the letter is a consonant letter. Check out the examples:

I got an MBA from the best university ever.

How to Use Indefinite Articles

Indefinite articles are only used with singular countable nouns. Indefinite articles cannot be used with plural countable nouns or uncountable nouns. Here are the examples:

✗ They are a books.

✗ I had a honey for breakfast.

✓ I have an idea.

How to Use Definite Articles?

The definite article 'the' can be used with singular or plural countable nouns and even we can use it with uncountable nouns. Here are the examples:

The old man is standing at the corner.

The chairs were being fixed.

The bread was well-baked.

Zero Article

Sometimes there is no need to use an article to modify the noun. In this case, we are actually using a zero article. Check out the examples to get to know them better:

Marcus is too kind. (Not 'the Marcus' or 'a Marcus')

Science is my favorite field. (Not 'a science' or 'the science')

When To Use Zero Article

Here are the most common cases in which we do not use an article:

  • languages, meals, academic subjects
  • games and sport, names
  • places, days, months

Position in a Noun Phrase

To make a correct noun phrase there is special word order in English. Remember, sometimes to be able to use some determiners, we are not allowed to use articles, therefore, we use zero articles.
Notice that zero articles are used with possessive and demonstrative determiners. The word order is:

  • quantifier + article + number + adjective + head noun

Here are a few examples:

All the bad habits that I have is because of you.

In this example, the word order is quantifier + article + adjective + the head noun.

Give me my delicious food.

Here, the word order is zero article + possessive determiner + head noun.


Based on whether an article defines a specific noun or not, they are categorized into two groups, as follows.

  1. definite article (the)
  2. indefinite article (a,an)


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Demonstrative Determiners

Demonstrative determiners in English are this, these, that and those. They are used to identify the person or thing that is being referred to.

Indefinite Determiners

Indefinite determiners are determiners that express quantity or the indefinite ideas of quality. They agree in number and gender with the noun they modify.

Relative Determiners

Relative determiners modify nouns within a relative clause. Follow the article to learn more about them.

Indefinite Articles

The indefinite articles in English language are 'a/an'. They refer to a noun for the first time or a general noun when its identity is unknown.

Definite Article

The definite article in English language is 'the'. It is used before a noun to show that the noun is known to the reader. Learn about this useful article!

Zero Article

Some nouns and noun phrases are used with no articles preceding them. In this article, we will learn about them.

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