What Are Articles?
Articles are a type of determiner used to introduce and modify nouns in a sentence. They are small words that come before a noun and provide information about it.
Why Do We Use Articles?
Articles are used to specify or indicate whether a noun is specific or nonspecific in a sentence. They are essential for clear communication, as using different articles for the same noun can alter the meaning of a sentence. Compare the following examples:
Here we mean the doctor that we mentioned before and we want to refer to what we meant.
In this example, we mean her job is being a doctor like other doctors.
Articles can be categorized into two groups based on whether they are used to refer to a specific or general noun:
Here are a few examples:
The definite article 'the' is used to modify nouns that are specific; by specific, we do not mean that the noun is a proper noun, we mean it is known to the listener and the speaker.
Usually, we use the definite article when the noun has already been mentioned and introduced. Here are some examples:
I saw a man at the station;
How to Use the Definite Article?
The definite article 'the' can be used with both singular or plural countable nouns and even with uncountable nouns. For example:
Indefinite articles are used with non-specific nouns. Usually, we use indefinite articles to refer to a noun for the first time. Indefinite articles in English are 'a' and 'an'. For example:
I need to buy
'A' vs. 'An'
With nouns that start with a vowel sound, we have to use the indefinite article 'an'. However, if the sound of the initial letter of the following noun is not a vowel, the indefinite article 'a' is used. Here are the examples:
I cannot find
In this example, 'e' has a vowel sound and the sound is /e/.
The sound of the consonant letter is /b/ and it is not a vowel, so we use the indefinite article 'a.'
With abbreviations and acronyms that are spelled out or pronounced with a vowel sound in the beginning, the indefinite article 'an' is used; even if the letter is a consonant. Check out the examples:
How to Use Indefinite Articles
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:
the Marcus' or ' a Marcus')
a science' or ' the science')
When To Use Zero Article
Here are the most common groups of nouns which do not need an article before them:
- games and sport
- days and months
- names of people
- academic subjects
Position in a Noun Phrase
To make a correct noun phrase a special word order must be followed. It's important to remember that in some cases, the use of certain determiners may exclude the use of articles, resulting in the use of 'zero articles'. For example, possessive and demonstrative determiners are used without articles. The word order to be followed is:
- quantifier + article + number + adjective + head noun
Here are a few examples:
In this example, the word order is quantifier + article + adjective + the head noun.
Here, the word order is possessive determiner + head noun with zero article.
Based on whether an article defines a specific noun or not, they are categorized into two groups, as follows.
- definite article (the)
- indefinite article (a,an)
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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 are determiners that express quantity or the indefinite ideas of quality. They agree in number and gender with the noun they modify.
Relative determiners modify nouns within a relative clause. Follow the article to learn more about them.
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.
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!