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English Grammar - Articles

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The words a, an, and the are special adjectives called articles.

Indefinite Articles—a, an

an—used before singular count nouns beginning with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) or vowel sound:
  • an apple, an elephant, an issue, an orange
a—used before singular count nouns beginning with consonants (other than a, e, i, o, u):
  • a stamp, a desk, a TV, a cup, a book
Definite Article—the

Can be used before singular and plural, count and non-count nouns

1. Indefinite Article (a, an)

Used before singular nouns that are unspecified:
  • a pencil
  • an orange
Used before number collectives and some numbers:
  • a dozen
  • a gallon
Used before a singular noun followed by a restrictive modifier:
  • a girl who was wearing a yellow hat
Used with nouns to form adverbial phrases of quantity, amount, or degree:
  • I felt a bit depressed.

2. Definite Article (the)

Used to indicate a noun that is definite or has been previously specified in the context:
  • Please close the door.
  • I like the clothes you gave me.
Used to indicate a noun that is unique:
  • Praise the Lord!
  • The Columbia River is near here.
Used to designate a natural phenomenon:
  • The nights get shorter in the summer.
  • The wind is blowing so hard.
Used to refer to a time period:
  • I was very naïve in the past.
  • This song was very popular in the 1980s.
Used to indicate all the members of a family:
  • I invited the Bakers for dinner.
  • This medicine was invented by the Smiths.
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