English Basics

Article (the & a or an)

Article (the & a or an)

There are three articles in English language: “the” “a” and “an”. Articles are used for nouns.

An article, like an adjective, modifies the noun. It adds to meaning of the noun. An article is always used before a noun or an adjective that modifies the noun.

⇒ Understanding the Types and Usage of articles

Articles are divided into following two types:

Indefinite Articles:          “a or an”
Definite Article:               “The”

The indefinite article “a / an” is used for common (non-specific) nouns.

Example: She bought a shirt.

In the above example, the ‘shirt’ is a common noun. The noun ‘shirt’ refers to a group of common things. It can be any shirt. It is not a specific or particular shirt.

On the other hand, the article “the” is only used for a specific or particular noun.

The article ‘the’ must be used before particular nouns such as ‘ThePakistan, The Lahore, The Quran’. The article ‘the’ may also be used before a common noun, if it the common noun is intentionally used as a particular noun in some context.

Example: He won the competition.

In the above example, the article ‘the’ used before the noun ‘competition’ shows that it was a specific or particular competition and not any competition. The article ‘the’ is used to make the noun ‘competition’ a particular noun. It means that this competition was already discussed or known in the context,  in which, the above sentence is spoken.

⇒ Rules for the usage of Indefinite articles “a / an”

    1. The article “a” is used for countable (singular) nouns starting with a consonant or a vowel which sounds like consonant. e.g.  a car, a lamp, a university, a chair
    2. The article “an” is used for countable (singular) nouns starting with a vowel or consonant that sounds like vowel (mute in few words) e.g. an umbrella, an onion, an hour, an apple.
    3. Before a countable noun which refers to major group of things. e.g. A potato is rich in carbohydrates.
    4. For a name of some profession e.g. He wants to become an engineer.  He is a doctor
    5. For expression of quantities e.g. a few, a dozen, a couple, a lot
    6. For expression of numbers e.g. a million, a thousand, a hundred
    7. Before a noun in exclamatory sentences e.g. What a beautiful home! What a nice book!
    8. Indefinite Article cannot be used before uncountable nouns. e.g. milk, water.

Rules for the usage of Definite article – “The”

The definite article “The” is used for both singular and plural nouns in accordance to the rules given below. e.g. the car, the cars

    1. Before proper nouns which are particular and thought to be particular. e.g. the moon, the sun, the stars, the equator, the earth
    2. Before a noun which become particular by being discussed earlier, and now it is used again. e.g. He gave money to a little boy and the boy bought toys for himself.
    3. For such a noun that has become specific in a phrase or a clause. e.g. the young energetic boy, the boy who helped us, the white shirt I bought,
    4. For superlatives or other adjective making the noun very particular one e.g. the most powerful, the first day, the only way, the best option,
    5. For a phrase which is combination of a common and proper noun, e.g. The river Nile, The Muslim League Party, The New York city.
    6. For the names of the organizations. e.g. The Society for the protection of Child’s Rights,
    7. For the names of scientific terms and concepts, laws and theories. Note, that “the” will be only used if written like “The Laws of Newton” but not if written as “Newton’s Laws”
    8. For the names of universities if the name starts with the word “university” such as “The University of Oxford” and not when written as “Oxford University”
    9. The article “the” is never used for the names of places, cities and countries e.g. Japan, America but  the article “the” must be for the names which refers to a group of cities or places, e.g. The Philippines, The United states of America.

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