Articles in English are small words that come before a noun, specifying it further. They could be definite or indefinite, depending on whether they refer to something specific or not. Articles are an essential part of English grammar, and mastering them is key to fluency in the language. This tutorial will explore the different types of articles, their uses, and rules to follow.
Types of Articles
There are two types of articles in English grammar:
- The Definite Article: This is 'the', which is used to specify or identify something or someone specific.
- The Indefinite Article: These are 'a' and 'an', which are used more generally, when the thing or person is not specifically identifiable.
1. The Definite Article: 'The'
The definite article 'the' is used when referring to something specific that has been mentioned before or when its context is understood. It can be used with both singular and plural nouns. Below are few examples of using 'the' in sentences.
- The cat is on the mat.
- I went to the market yesterday.
- The children are playing outside.
2. The Indefinite Article: 'A' and 'An'
Indefinite articles are used when we are talking about something in general, not specific. 'A' is used before words that begin with a consonant sound, while 'an' is used before words that begin with a vowel sound. Here are few example sentences:
- A cat is a common house pet.
- An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Rules for Using Articles
While using articles in English grammar, few rules are essential to keep in mind for correct application.
Rule 1: Use 'The' for Specific Items
Use 'the' when you're speaking about something specific that your listener understands from the context. Use 'the' when it's clear which one you're talking about.
Rule 2: Use 'A' or 'An' for General Items
Use 'a' or 'an' when you're speaking about something for the first time, or something that's not familiar to your listener. They are used when the exact identity of the thing you're speaking about isn't important.
Rule 3: 'A' for Consonant Sounds, 'An' for Vowel Sounds
Use 'a' before words that begin with a consonant sound, and 'an' before words that begin with a vowel sound. Note that it's based on sound, not actual letter.
- A cat (cat starts with a consonant sound)
- An apple (apple starts with a vowel sound)
Rule 4: No Articles with Plural Countable and Uncountable Nouns
When a noun is plural or uncountable, and it's used in a general sense, you don't need an article.
- I love cats. (correct)
- I love the cats. (incorrect unless referring to specific cats)
Exceptions in Using Articles
Like many grammar rules, articles also come with a set of exceptions:
Exception 1: Use 'The' for Unique Entities
'The' is also used before unique entities such as the sun, the earth, the sky, etc.
Exception 2: No Articles with Proper Nouns
Generally, you don't use articles with proper nouns, i.e., the names of people, countries, continents, cities, rivers, mountains, etc.
- Susan is my friend. (not The Susan)
- Asia is a large continent. (not The Asia)
Exception 3: No Articles with Noncount Nouns
Noncount nouns, or nouns that cannot be counted (like milk, rice, information), take no article if used in a general sense.
- I need information. (not I need an information)
- We bought rice. (not We bought a rice)
Mastering the use of articles can be tricky, but with regular practice and careful application of the rules discussed above, you can improve your grammatical accuracy. Remember, articles are essential in the English language for working out meaning, context, and specificity. It might take a while to get used to the rules, but once you do, they will become second nature.