Each of the articles – a, an, the – can be used before a countable noun. Unlike a and an, the article the can come before an uncountable noun. The three articles are commonly used to begin a sentence. There are some words that can be used before the articles.
Article before adjective
Articles introduce nouns and are regarded as adjectives because they modify the nouns that they precede. More commonly, they are used before descriptive adjectives in a sentence. The three articles are used here before an adjective followed by a noun.
- A last-minute goal put them through to the final. (Last-minute is an adjective.)
- A parish priest was called in to exorcise the ghost.
- An apple pie a day is a must after dinner.
- An old friend of mine was released from prison last week.
- The high-rise building was gutted by fire.
- The bright meteor lit up the sky.
- He sports a bushy beard.
- My neighbour is an elderly lady.
- The modern world is a very small world.
Article before an uncountable noun.
The is the only article that is used before an uncountable noun. It can be anywhere in a sentence except at the end. The uncountable nouns used here are butter, flesh, sand, snow, cream, and skin.
butter melted in the heat.
The flesh of the fruit is white.
The sand was then mixed to the cement.
- They are playing in the snow.
- The sales person claimed the cream made the skin age more slowly.
We cannot use a before an uncountable noun, but we can if we have a measured quantity of the uncountable noun. For example, it's wrong to say or write a cheese. Instead, we can use a chunk/hunk/lump/piece/slice of cheese.
- a block of ice
- a cube of sugar
- a hunk of cheese
- a knob of butter
- a layer of dirt
- a piece of cloth
- a piece of furniture
- a piece of homework
- a pile of rubbish
- a pinch of salt
- a slice of bread
- an amount or a sum of money
- an item or a piece of equipment
(For more, see List 2 - Uncountable Nouns made Countable (Partitive))
Words that come before the articles.
- Many a time he would talk when his mouth was full.
- Half an orange is not enough for me.
- What an awful lot of difference it will make to my life if I fail the exam.
- All the puppies got stolen.
- Both the papers had difficult and stupid questions.