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Article Definition Grammar

The words used to determine the difference between crucial or trivial nouns are called articles. Articles such as 'the', 'an' and' a' express that any particular or insignificant object, person, place etc., are being addressed in a sentence. For example- A squirrel came out of the hole in the soil.

Article Definition Grammar

In each case, 'the' represents a particular 'soil' and 'hole'. It cannot be just any hole or any soil that is being described here. On the other hand, the word for addressing the squirrel in the sentence is 'a', as it can be any squirrel and is not specified.

The articles are the kind of adjectives that bring out the exclusiveness of a noun. The article 'the' is used to imply that the upcoming noun is one of its kind and does not leave any doubt for the readers as they would be already familiar with its identity. This article is also known as a definite article because the identity of the noun with it is still intact. This article could be used with countable and uncountable nouns and singular and plural nouns.

For Instance:

  • The car
  • The child
  • The women
  • The Taj Mahal

In other articles, 'a' and 'an' determine that the noun is insignificant. These articles are also known as indefinite articles because the specification of nouns along with it is lost. Article 'a' is commonly used for countable singular nouns. Mostly, they are put to use with nouns beginning with consonants (alphabets that are not a,e, i,o and u)

For example-

  • A boat
  • A cassette
  • A drink

Article 'an' is generally used with words that start with vowel sounds. Alike 'the' article, 'an', 'is used with singular nouns.

For instance-

  • An owl
  • An elephant
  • An accident


  1. In some exceptional cases, the definite article (the) can replace indefinite articles ('a' and 'an'); however, the vice versa rarely occurs.
  2. There is a specific situation when 'the' cannot be used, such as when things, in general, are addressed in a sentence, 'the' could be avoided. Also, when plural countable nouns are concerned in a phrase, 'the' needs to be omitted. For example - Elders have an orthodox mindset. Here, the noun 'elders' is addressed to not any particular individual but a category of individuals and these individuals are in form of plural countable nouns.

The concept of numbers in determining which noun should be used in a phrase is important. The nouns are very specific words and names that assist in pointing out the objects that are being addressed. The computable, incomputable and proper nouns are categories on the basis on which the usage of articles depends.

  1. Computable nouns- The nouns that acquire singular and plural forms using 's' and 'es' as a suffix (in most cases).

For example-

  • One kite, three kites
  • One chapter, five chapters
  • One dot, two dots
  1. Incomputable nouns- The nouns that only exist in singular form, not because of the lack of quantity but due to their immeasurable nature. For example- water, sand, sadness, grammar, milk, air, food etc.
  2. Proper nouns- The names of certain locations and people with the first alphabet written in capital letters are termed proper nouns.

For example-

  • Rob Burke is a millionaire.
  • China is a communist country.
  • Asia is the largest continent.
  • Economics is a boring subject.

Principles for Using the Articles

Certain rules need to be considered while placing an article before any noun.

  1. When the identity of a noun remains unknown to the reader and the noun is a countable singular noun, an indefinite article can be used with it. The nouns beginning with the sound of vowels and consonants should also be recognized to place the correct article before it.
  2. The indefinite articles signify that particularly one object, place, or noun is being described in the sentence, and that object is common and, therefore, unspecific.

For example-

  • Can we buy a cat?
  • A cow is blocking my way.
  • I saw an elephant on the way home.
  1. If there is more than one item and the noun is countable, then some can be used instead of 'a' or 'an', even though it is not an article but a quantifier.

For example-

  • A glass-some glasses
  • An egg- some eggs
  • A friend- some friends

Uses of Articles

1. Use of 'a'

1. It could be used with a common noun when it makes sense in a sentence.

For example- A woman just walked by me.

2. It could be used before a quantity, measurement or amount of something.

For example,-The cost of bananas is Rs.30 a dozen

3. When verbs in a sentence are in -ing form and are suggested as nouns, 'a' could be used.

For example- I was thinking about joining a cooking class.

4. It is used with singular and unspecific terms.

For example- I think I heard a scream.

5. It suggests the variety of an object pointed out in the sentence.

For example- This sounds like a very good book.

6. It is used with a name unfamiliar to the reader or listener.

For example- Do you know a Nisha Rastogi?

7. It is used with the days of a week and month names.

For example- I am organizing a party on a Friday next month.

8. It is used before particular exclamatory sentences.

For example- What a lovely gift!

2. Use of 'an'

1. An is used with words that begin with vowels.

For example- I have an old bicycle.

An apple just fell from the tree

2. Even though the noun succeeding an article is a consonant, it sounds like a vowel, the article 'an' can be used.

For example- Sia is an L.L.B graduate from Delhi University.

I'll be there in an hour

3. 'An' can be used with adjectives.

For example- Ramona is an attractive woman.

He seems like an eager fellow.

4. An can be used for exclamatory sentences.

For instance - What an abomination!

What an adorable little thing this is!

5. 'An' is used to signify a profession.

She is an architect.

This man is an author.

3. Use of 'The'

1. It can be used for peculiar things or ones that are not abundant or common.

For Example-

  • The sun is shining in the sky ('the sun' is not an object that exists in abundance. Therefore, the unique nouns are written used along with 'the')
  • The time is running out.
  • The air has turned cold.
  • The water is freezing up.

2. It can be used before singular nouns pointing out an object that is regarded as the subject.

For Example-

  • The computer has stopped working. (It could not be just any computer but the one that has stopped working).
  • The dog bit her on the leg. (Dog is the subject, while the leg is an object in this sentence. Both require to be pointed out to the reader.)
  • They watched the movie named "Frozen".

3. 'The' could be used with Superlative forms of adverbs.

For example-

  • Only the fastest athlete could win this race. (Addition of 'the' before 'fastest' signifies that among the group of many athletes, only one, i.e. fastest, can win the race, and that's what makes them special enough to be pointed out)
  • The youngest child is the most loved one. ('Youngest' and 'most loved' are the qualities specifically used for a particular category of children in this sentence; hence, it uses 'the' before them.)
  • I want to buy the cheapest bouquet in this shop.

4. 'The' for various geographical regions as described below:

  • Before unified countries and states: The European Union, The United States of America, The United Arab Emirates, etc.
  • Gulfs: The Gulf of Mexico, The Gulf of Aden, The Persian Gulf, etc.
  • Sea names: The North Atlantic, The Mediterranean, The Pacific, etc.
  • Directions: The Northern Hemisphere, The Southern Winds, The Eastern Coast, etc.
  • Republic countries: The Republic of India, The Democratic Republic of Congo, The Republic of Slovenia, etc.

Differences between Definite and Indefinite Articles

Definite Articles

  1. It can be used before both countable and uncountable nouns.
  2. 'The' can be used before both singular and plural nouns.
  3. 'The' can point out a particular person, place or object.
  4. The reader already knows the noun the narrator points out by adding 'the.'
  5. If the narrator has introduced the noun or noun phrase, 'the' can be added in further sentences.

Indefinite Articles

  1. 'A' and 'an' cannot be used before plural and uncountable nouns
  2. These articles are only used with a singular noun.
  3. These articles signify something abundant and unspecific.
  4. These articles cannot be utilized to indicate something the readers already know about.
  5. If the noun is unfamiliar, it can be brought forward by using indefinite articles.

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