Articles Grammar Rules

Articles Grammar Rules

Articles are words used before nouns to make it clear exactly what the noun refers to. English has two types of articles: definite and indefinite.

The Definite Article

The definite article is the word the. The definite article limits the meaning of a noun to one particular thing. For example, your friend might ask, “Are you going to the party this weekend?” The definite article tells you that your friend is referring to a specific party that both of you know about. The definite article can be used with singular, plural, or uncountable nouns.

The Indefinite Article

The indefinite article takes two forms. It’s the word a when it precedes a noun that begins with a consonant. It’s an when it precedes a noun that begins with a vowel. The indefinite article indicates that a noun doesn’t refer to a particular thing. For example, you might ask your friend, “Should I bring a gift to the party?” Your friend will understand that you are not asking about a specific type of gift or a specific item. “I am going to bring an apple pie,” your friend tells you. Again, the indefinite article indicates that she is not talking about a specific apple pie. Your friend probably doesn’t even have any pie yet. The indefinite article only appears with singular nouns.

Choosing a or an

There are a few exceptions to the general rule of using a before words that start with consonants and an before words that begin with vowels. The first letter of the word honor, for example, is a consonant, but it’s unpronounced. The first sound of the word is a vowel sound; therefore, use an.

My mother is a honest woman.
My mother is an honest woman.

Similarly, when the first letter of a word is a vowel but is pronounced with a consonant sound, use a.

She is an United States senator.
She is a United States senator.

This holds true with acronyms and initialisms, too: an LCD display, a UK-based company, an HR department, a URL.

Article Before an Adjective

Sometimes an article modifies a noun that is also modified by an adjective. The usual word order is article + adjective + noun. If the article is indefinite, choose a or an based on the word that immediately follows it.

Please bring me the green book. Eliza will bring a small gift to Sophie’s party. I heard an interesting story yesterday.

Zero Article and Idiomatic Use

Occasionally, idiomatic usage allows you to omit articles altogether before certain nouns. The article is implied but not actually present. This implied article is sometimes called a “zero article.” Often, the article is omitted before nouns that refer to abstract ideas.

Let’s cook a dinner together. The creativity is a valuable quality in children.

Let’s cook dinner together. Creativity is a valuable quality in children.

All or All of and The

When using the words all or all of and the together, all must come first.

The all guests arrived late to the party. Eliza helped prepare the all snacks for the party. All of music at the party was fun to dance to.

All the guests arrived late to the party. Eliza helped prepare all the snacks for the party. All of the music at the party was fun to dance to.

Articles and Pronouns

Do not use an article with a pronoun.

Is that the my book? Eliza invited a me to the party. Let’s meet at the your house.

Is that my book? Eliza invited me to the party. Let’s meet at your house.

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Comments
  • Vadim

    > The article is implied but not actually present. This implied article is sometimes called a “zero article.”
    > Incorrect: Let’s cook a dinner together. The creativity is a valuable quality in children.
    > Correct: Let’s cook dinner together. Creativity is a valuable quality in children.

    What articles are implied here and why?

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