Indefinite Articles for intermediate learners

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.

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Indefinite Articles in English Grammar

What Are Indefinite Articles?

When we want to indicate whether a noun is specific or unspecific, we use articles. As you are already familiar, we have two types of articles in English. Let us take a look at the following list:

Now, let us see what indefinite articles are.

Indefinite Articles : A, An

Generally speaking, when we want to talk about countable, singular nouns and common, unspecific nouns, we mainly use indefinite articles before them. We have two forms of indefinite articles that are A and An. Let us see how each differs from the other.

What Are the Differences Between A and An?

When the noun that comes after the article begins with a vowel, we always use An. Otherwise, when the noun begins with a consonant, we always use A before it. Let us study the following examples:

I can buy a book.

As you can see, 'book' starts with a consonant therefore a is used before it.

She doesn't want to eat an apple.

Here, 'apple' begins with a vowel therefore an is used.

Warning!

Please note that there are exceptions. Not all words that begin with a consonant letter, have a consonant sound and vice versa. Take a look at the following examples:

There's a university over there.

Here, the word begins with a vowel word but it has a consonant sound.

It is an umbrella.

Here, the word begins with a vowel sound.

How Are Indefinite Articles Added to Nouns?

Whether we have a noun or a noun phrase, indefinite articles always come before them. Remember that choosing to add 'a' or 'an' is based on the sound the noun or noun phrase begins with. Let us examine some examples below:

Sicily has a red truck.

He is a highly-skilled doctor.

Where Do We Use Indefinite Articles?

We use these indefinite articles in various contexts. Below is a list of some of the most common uses of indefinite articles:

  • Referring to Something General
  • Referring to a Whole Group
  • Referring to Unspecific Dates

Now, let us see what each means:

Referring to Something General

When we want to talk about general and unspecific things, we use indefinite articles. Let us examine the following examples:

She saw a black cat on the street.

As you can see, the sentence is referring to an unspecific black cat.

Yesterday, he walked past an orange tree.

Referring to a Whole Group

Generally, when we want to talk about a specific group of people or a community, we can use indefinite articles. Let us study the examples below:

An introvert is a quiet person who does not really enjoy the company of others.

Here, the article is referring to a noun which indicates a whole group.

A dog has four legs.

Referring to Unspecific Dates

When we are talking about unspecific dates, we can use indefinite articles before them. Check out the following examples:

She went to the party on a Sunday Night.

As you can see, the date is unclear.

Many people want to start exercising on a Saturday.

Tip!

It is useful to know that some uncountable nouns can be used with indefinite articles when they are accompanied by an adjective. Pay attention to the following example:

A traumatic childhood

As you can see, 'childhood' is an uncountable noun.

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