Articles for intermediate learners

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?

Articles are a type of determiner used to introduce and modify nouns or noun phrases in a sentence. They are small words that come before a noun and provide information about the noun that follows.

Articles: Types

The type of article we use to modify a noun in English depends on the noun itself. There are two types of articles in English. Take a look at the following list:

Take a look at the following examples:

She is trying to find a job.

Let's wait and see what the doctor says.

Definite Article

When we want to talk about a specific person or item, we use the definite article. There is only one definite article in English and that is 'the'. Let us study the following examples:

Sheila wanted to talk to you about the mysterious event that happened to her.

As you can see, the sentence is indicating a specific event, not just any event.

Shall we go to the ball?

How Do We Use the Definite Article?

As mentioned above, the definite article is used when we want to modify specific, particular nouns. Study the following examples:

How dare he talk to the boss like that?

Look at the dazzling blue rose.

Indefinite Articles

When we want to talk about unspecific, general nouns, we use indefinite articles. There are two types of indefinite articles in English that are 'a' and 'an'. Let us examine some examples below:

As I was walking home the other day, I was thinking about climbing a tree sometime.

An epic poem is long.

Warning!

Please note that indefinite articles are only used with singular, countable nouns. On the contrary, the definite article can be used with either singular or plural nouns. Compare the following examples:

She took the homeless cats to an animal shelter.

I want to sit on a tree branch right now.

'A' or 'An'?

The only difference between 'a' and 'an' is that 'a' is used before nouns that begin with a consonant sound and 'an' is used before nouns that begin with a vowel sound. Take a look at the following examples:

She wants to buy an umbrella.

As you can see, the noun begins with a vowel sound.

How could you count on a fool like him?

Here, the noun begins with a consonant.

Warning!

Please note that not all nouns that begin with a vowel letter necessarily have vowel sounds, and vice versa. Some words that begin with a vowel letter are pronounced with a consonant sound, while some words that begin with a consonant letter are pronounced with a vowel sound. Study the following examples carefully:

I have an hour left.

As you can see, 'an' is used with a word beginning with a consonant letter but a vowel sound.

Give me an umbrella.

Here, 'an' is used with a word that begins with a vowel letter and has a vowel sound.

Tip!

It is useful to know that when we have no articles, we call it the zero article condition. Mainly, when we use proper nouns such as names of people, academic subjects, countries, etc. there is no need for articles. Take a look at the following examples:

Anna is reading her book.

(Not the Anna or an Anna..)

She studied English Literature.

(Not the English Literature or an English Literature...)

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Demonstrative Determiners

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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

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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

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

Indefinite Articles

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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

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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

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