Definite And Indefinite Articles
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There are three articles in English - a, an, the. The articles 'a' and 'an' are called indefinite articles. The article 'the' is called the definite article.
Articles can only be used before nouns or noun phrases.
The indefinite articles 'a' and 'an'
Indefinite articles are used to mean 'one' or 'any'.
She has got a car. (= one car)
You should consult a doctor. (= any doctor)
The article 'a' is used before a word beginning with a consonant sound. The article 'an' is used before a word beginning with a vowel sound. Examples are given below:
Examples: a boy, a girl, a pen, an apple, an owl, a bull etc.
The word 'hour' begins with the consonant letter 'h'. However, it is pronounced with the vowel sound 'o' and hence we use 'an' before 'hour'.
I waited for an hour.
The definite article 'the' is used to refer to particular people or things.
The children are playing in the garden. (Here the listener already knows which children and which garden the speaker is talking about.)
A child was playing in the garden. (In this case, neither the listener nor the speaker knows the identity of the child. They merely saw a child playing in the garden.)
Sections in this articleIntroduction to Articles
The Definite Article
Cases where the definite article should not be used
The Indefinite Article
Cases where articles should not be used
What to use - A/an or the
The difference between some/any and no article
Common expressions without articles
Articles: special rules and exceptions