What is an Article?
An article is a word that precedes a noun/s or noun equivalents. When an article is inserted before any noun, it informs us whether the noun in that sentence or phrase is specific or generic. There are three articles in the English language: a, an, and the, each of which is an important part of the phrase.
Example: After I went to the party, I fell ill.
Here, ‘the’ specifies the party.
Types Of Articles
The three articles: ‘a’, ‘an’, and ‘the’ can be divided into two groups.
“The” is the article that falls into the category of definite articles. It restricts the meaning of a noun to a single thing. Singular, multiple, and uncountable nouns use the definite article. “The” is used when a noun needs to be associated with something specific.
Definite Article examples:
He threw the ball into the pond.
‘The’ specifies the ball.
I saw the boy puncturing the tyre.
Here, ‘the’ is emphasising the particular boy.
Where is the notebook that I gave you?
The usage of ‘the’ is here because of the particular notebook given.
There are two indefinite articles—‘a’ and ‘an’—and their usage is determined by the first letter of the word. The article ‘a’ is used when the following word begins with a consonant. If the following word begins with a vowel, ‘an’ is used. The indefinite article indicates that a word is being considered in general rather than specifically.
Indefinite Article examples:
She wore a pretty necklace.
No focus on a particular necklace.
I want to raise my son to be an honest and kind person.
No specification of which honest man the speaker is referring to.
After learning about the many types of articles and how they are used in different contexts, here are some guidelines to follow for proper usage.
When utilising the indefinite articles a and an, use the following formula:
- Sounds of the first letters of the word
When using ‘a’ and ‘an’, there are certain exceptions to the norm. For example, the word honest starts with an unpronounced consonant letter and sounds like it starts with a vowel sound. As a result, ‘an’ is employed here. This holds for acronyms as well.
Ram is an honest man.
An LCD display.
If we have to place an indefinite article before a word that begins with a vowel but has a consonant sound in the beginning, then ‘an’ is used instead of ‘a’. This is also applicable for acronyms.
A UK-based company etc.
- When there are Uncountable and Countable Nouns
Countable nouns can be counted in numbers, whereas uncountable nouns can’t or are difficult to count.
Indefinite articles can’t be used with these items because they can’t be numbered.
We never say, “Give me a juice”, as juice is an uncountable noun. You cannot count or call it ‘a’.
Please give me a glass of juice.
If the description of juice is in terms of countable units like glass, you can use the indefinite article.
Not using the definite article
The article ‘the’ must not be used before the following–
- names of continents like Australia, Asia
- countries, states or streets like China, India
- lakes, mountains, islands or bays, like the Himalayas, Chilika Lake
- languages like English, Hindi
- sports such as cricket, football
- subjects like mathematics, geography, or
- when talking about an abstract idea like creativity.
Articles are very important from a competitive examination point of view and also important for the correct usage of the English language. One can further attempt some questions and exercises for understanding the concept.