Published on November 16, 2007
Using Articles: Using Articles Indefinite /a/ and /an/ vs. Definite /the/ The Indefinite Article: The Indefinite Article We use a before count nouns beginning in consonant sounds. You can buy a car if you want. Or you could take a bus. The word a basically means one of many. It means no item in particular, just one in general. Choosing A or An: Choosing A or An 1. ___ card game 2. ___ idiot 3. ___ good job 4. ___ rotten egg 5. ___ used fork 6. ___ uncle 7. ___ hurricane 8. ___ internet ad 9. ___ hair 10. ___ artichoke 11. ___ horrible it 12. ___ opera 13. ___ fine opera 14. ___ television 15. ___ earthquake A Generalizes: A Generalizes Use a or an before a singular noun, or one modified by an adjective. A storm is an unfortunate event. Use it before saying someone belongs to a profession, nation, or religion. Kabir is a Muslim; Ana is a Christian. The Definite Article: The Definite Article Use the before a noun that refers to a specific member of a group. The professor likes to present lessons. The is not used with uncountable nouns referring to something in a general sense. Gas [not the gas] is a volatile substance. The Specifies: The Specifies The is used with uncountable nouns that are made specific by a limiting modifying phrase or clause. The stuff on the wall is not pretty. The can refer to something unique. The wind today is from the north. Using A/An, The, and Some: Using A/An, The, and Some Countable vs. Non-Countable: Countable vs. Non-Countable A and An are used when a noun can be counted. I saw a dog. The can be used when a noun is not countable. I dove into the water. First and Later Mention: First and Later Mention A or An can be used the first time a noun is mentioned in a passage. I saw a large and colorful flag. The should be used for subsequent mentions of the noun. The colors of the flag were red, white, and blue. General or Specific: General or Specific A, an, and the can all be used to indicate that a noun refers to the whole class: A [any] tiger is a dangerous animal. The tiger [as a type] is a dangerous animal. The difference between the indefinite a and the generic a is that the former means any one member of a class while the latter means all of the members of a class. Indefinite A Generic The: Indefinite A Generic The Omitting articles for generic sense: No article with a plural noun: Tigers are dangerous animals. No article with a non-countable noun: Anger is a destructive emotion. No Articles with these Nouns: No Articles with these Nouns Names of languages and nationalities Chinese English Spanish Names of sports volleyball baseball Names of academic subjects mathematics biology computer science Background: Background This presentation is adapted from Adam Powell’s PowerPoint which is based on information from the OWL at Perdue University.