What Are Articles?
In English we sometimes use the words ‘the‘, ‘a‘ and ‘an‘ before a noun. These are known as articles. ‘a’ and ‘an’ are known as indefinite articles. ‘the’ is known as a definite article. These words are some of the most popular in the english language so it’s important we know why and how to use them properly.
We use the definite article ‘the‘ when the listener knows the identity of the noun and we want to specify that noun.
“We’re going to the house”
In this situation the speaker is saying that they are going to a house (that they have already spoken about previously) and the listener knows which house it is. We also use the definite article for things that are common-knowledge or obvious even if the listener might not know of them. For example we use the definite article for ‘the Moon’, ‘the United States of America.’ and ‘the Big bang’.
We use the indefinite article ‘a‘ or ‘an‘ when the noun isn’t known to the listener yet.
“We’re going to a house”
In this situation the speaker is saying that they are going to a house but, the speaker doesn’t yet know where it is. We use ‘a‘ when the noun starts with a consonant sound:-
- a tree
- a frog
- a mouse
We use ‘an‘ when the noun starts with a vowel sound:-
- an egg
- an hour
- an item
Sometimes an article for a noun can switch in one paragraph as the listener becomes aware of it.
“Where are we going?”
“We’re going to a house”
“Are we nearly there?”
“When we get to the house I will tell you”
When the house is first mentioned the listener wasn’t aware of it however, after it has been established we can then switch to using the definite article ‘the‘ after that whenever we want to refer back to this house.
As mentioned, whenever we have a noun in English we must make a choice of which article to use:- ‘a‘, ‘an‘, ‘the‘ or nothing at all. We already know when to use either the definite or indefinite article so the only real decision we need to make is if we will use an article or nothing at all. Selecting the right one isn’t always an easy choice for a non-native English speaker but there are some rules we can follow:-
- Names of some countries (that use non-name words in the title:- ‘of’, ‘united’, ‘islands’.e.g. the UK, The USA, The Cayman Islands)
- Some places (the zoo, the park, the cinema)
- Dates (the 21st of November)
- Uncountable nouns when talking specifically (water, money, rice)(e.g The water here tastes bad)
A / An / The
- Singular countable nouns (the/an apple, the/a car, the/a cat)
- Jobs (I am a teacher, he is a doctor)
- Names of living creatures (Jim, Fred, Whiskers etc)
- Names of most countries (Japan, Germany, India etc)
- Languages (French, English, Spanish etc)
- Plural countable nouns (7 apples, 2 cars, 4 cats)
- Uncountable nouns when talking in general (water, money, rice)(e.g. Drinking water is healthy)
- With certain expressions (go to work, eat breakfast, stay in bed)
- With some common places (bed, school, home, work etc)
- Days of the week / Months (Monday, February, December)
Take the quiz below to see what you remember!
The articles are missing! Where should they go?
best thing about going for walk in park (especially in city) is that it gives you chance to catch your breath. lot of time, modern life can be hectic with lots of noise and stress. Getting back to nature and being amongst trees and plants etc reminds you of simpler way of being.
Try it next time you get few hours spare. Find your nearest park, switch off your phone and just walk. Who knows what you might see, maybe squirrel? swan? Or maybe you won’t see anything you find interesting at all and you can’t wait to get back to your busy life!Exercise 1.1
They say apple day keeps doctor away but I’ve been eating apples for years and It’s never stopped me from having to see doctor! Maybe it’s apples or maybe I’m eating them wrong. All I know is that this is not way for me.
That being said, I have friend who eats orange day and I can’t remember last time he had to see doctor. Maybe I should ask him if that’s reason why, or maybe see if he has different reason for his super human health.Exercise 1.2
man once told me story of city that was filled with gold. people there didn’t work, they just sat around enjoying things that gold could buy, servants they could employ and food they could eat.
The problem was that after while, city became lazy. purpose had gone from their lives and there was no joy. solution was simple though, they began working again, now as volunteers. They had their joy again and could help make world better place.Exercise 1.3
It says in news that world is going to end tomorrow. Do you believe it? I remember similar story few years ago that said same thing.
Maybe we should have backup plan just in case it’s true. We could prepare basement and go to shop and get some supplies to try and stay safe. Or maybe it is all big hoax and world won’t end after all.Exercise 1.4
There are too many articles! Which ones should we get rid of?
This weekend I went to the London, it was so exciting! I saw the Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and even the Buckingham Palace! In the afternoon it was quite hot so I ate an ice cream for a lunch and my a friend gave me some of his a drink before we went the home.
I think for my next holiday I will go to the France. I’ll probably go with my friend the Jessica, she loves a Paris and wants to see the Eiffel Tower. She also speaks a French. We would probably go in the December because it would be so magical around that time.Exercise 2.1
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