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Definite and Indefinite Article

Definite and indefinite article

There is just one definite article in English: ‘the’. We also have two indefinite articles: ‘a’ and ‘an’. Let’s check the correct way of using them.

Definite Article

As it was said before, there is just one definite article that is used a lot in English. ‘The’ is used in many sentences and in front of many words, sometimes without being necessary.

 

The article ‘the’ can be used with singular or plural nouns:

The girl – The girls

The woman – The women

 

Use ‘the’ to talk about something that has already been mentioned or that indicates a noun is definite:

Close the window, please!

She loved the shoes I gave her.

 

Also use ‘the’ to indicate that something is unique:

The moon is beautiful.

The sun is shining.

The Amazon River is really long.

 

Before musical instruments or family names:

I want to play the guitar.

She plays the violin very well.

We talked to the Kennedys.

The Johnsons are our neighbors.

 

Before ordinal numbers:

She was the first in her class.

He got the third place.

 

Before the word “only” when it represents the sense of unique.

She was the only woman I loved.

He is the only one I trust.

 

Before names of regions, group of islands, deserts, lakes, mountains, rivers, seas and oceans:

The Pacific is the biggest ocean.

The Sahara is the world’s hottest desert.

Have you ever visited the Rocky Mountains?

 

Use to designate a natural phenomenon:

The nights are longer in winter.

 

Refering to a time period:

People were happier in the 70s.

 

Before countries in the plural or that are composed of an adjective + noun:

The United States are a big country.

The Netherlands is in Europe.

 

Pay Attention!

We never use ‘the’ before names of countries that are singular:

Germany – not The Germany

Brazil – not The Brazil

Turkey – not The Turkey

 

Indefinite Article

There are two indefinite articles: ‘a’ and ‘an’. Let’s check the difference between these two.

A

The article ‘a’ is used before singular countable nouns that begin with consonants. For example:

a banana

a car

a bus

a hat

But there are some words that begin with consonants, but they have the sound of vowels:

I want to buy an MP3.

Notice that the word MP3, when pronouncing the letter M, has the sound of a vowel. So it’s necessary to use the article “an”.

 

AN

The article ‘an’ is used before singular countable nouns that begin with a vowel and have the sound of a vowel (a, e, i, o, u).

an orange

an elephant

an apple

an issue

But there are some words that begin with vowels, but they have the sound of consonants:

A university – In this case, the beginning of the word university has the consonant sound (sound of / y /), so even if the word begins with the vowel u, the correct way of saying is ‘a university’ and not ‘an university’.

 

Pay attention!

Indefinite Articles are used before singular countable nouns. Never use it before uncountable nouns.

CorrectIncorrect
 

Let’s buy a banana/ Let’s buy bananas

I need a book/ I need books

I want to eat an orange/ I want to eat oranges

 

Let’s buy a bananas

I need a books

I want to eat an oranges

Also learn from Captain English about Plural of Nouns.