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How to Use Articles in English

How to Use Articles in English

Discover the nuances and intricacies of using articles in the English language. A comprehensive overview for language enthusiasts.

Do you know what are articles in English language and how to use them? You may think this knowledge is something that all English speakers know. However, even some native speakers have difficulties using the right articles.

What is an Article?

Many of you confuse articles with prepositions, while they are two different things. Technically, an article is an adjective since it changes the nouns following the article. Only consisting of a, an, and the, article is a word that explains the nouns to the listener.

As an example, you can compare these two sentences, John is a doctor and I saw a doctor. Both sentences use an article that modifies the noun, doctor. However, in the first sentence, you’re saying that John works as a doctor. While on the second sentence, you’re saying that you saw one doctor.

English has different article usage depending on the nouns. Whether it’s plural, singular, countable, or uncountable, and whether the sentence makes sense. You may think it’s a challenge at first, but as you learn more about articles in English language, you will naturally use them in your sentences.

Types of Articles

English grammar divides articles into three groups based on their functions or the nouns they are modifying. In general, you only need to pay attention to whether the noun is countable or uncountable.

Most uncountable nouns such as energy, love, money, and creativity, don’t need any article. But some of the uncountable nouns such as country names require an article. Everyone has a unique way of learning articles, but the best starting point is to know the types so you can match them with the nouns.

1. Definite

As a speaker, you want to limit the topic or object to make it clear to the other party. And that is when you use a definite article. It only consists of “the” and only has a single purpose, that is to define the noun.

Take a look at these examples:

  • Please wear the uniform.
  • She is The Princess of Wales
  • Look at the sky!

You use a definite article when you’re referring to a specific noun, or when there is only one of that specific thing, or you have mentioned the noun before. Take a look at these examples:

  • Hey, do you want to watch the movie?
  • Let’s walk to the theatre, then we can grab dinner.
  • Show me where the best seat is.

 

Anyhow, geographical places such as countries, deserts, mountains, forests, and continents have unique rules regarding articles. You cannot use any article when referring to most country names, cities, states, and even street names. You also can’t use articles when talking about islands, mountains, and continents. But you have to use an article when talking about deserts, mountain ranges, and even several countries. Take a look at these examples.

  • The Netherlands passes a new law on immigration.
  • South Korea and Japan are pursuing bilateral economic cooperation.
  • Last Summer we went to the Andes.
  • I went to the Canary Islands for my sister’s wedding.

2. Indefinite

If you can’t define the noun, then you use the indefinite articles of a or an. This is often when you’re talking about part of a group such as in jobs, race, and religion. Also, indefinite article refers to singular nouns.

Keep in mind that you need to match the article with the noun’s first letter. For nouns that start with a vowel like automobile, apple, or animal, you use an. But when the noun starts with a consonant, you use a.

Anyhow, you need to match the article with how the noun sounds. It means, nouns start with consonants but are pronounced as vowels such as hour uses an as article.  And nouns start with a vowel but sound like consonants, like university, you use a as the article.

You can take a look at these examples to better understand this type.

  • Catherine lives near a university.
  • She has a loft in London.
  • Audrey is a doctor
  • Cillian Murphy is an Irish.
  • I think I hear a sound.

3. Zero Or Omission

Not all nouns require an article in a sentence. Abstract ideas such as plans, feelings, and things you can’t touch may not need an article. You can be grammatically correct and make more sense when you don’t use any articles for nouns such as nationalities, sport teams, and school subjects. Take a look at the following examples.

  • Americans have the highest population of adults believing in angels.
  • Cubans love their sandwiches.
  • I’m majoring in social studies.
  • Asian countries record an all-time high in economic growth.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo refuses to renew his contract with Real Madrid.

Articles and Adjectives

Sometimes, you use an adjective to modify the nouns. You can add the adjective between the article and the noun. It will further explain the noun as there is no limit on how many adjectives you can use.

  • Nadya has a cute little blue dress.
  • She drives a black battered Mazda with missing taillights.
  • Caroline loves the lovely pink intricate ribbon on her dress.

Article or Pronouns

Sometimes pronouns take over the article’s position in a sentence. This is common when expressing possessions. You cannot use both article and pronoun in the sentence, even if you want to define the noun. You have to choose one of them just like in the examples below.

  • Do you listen to the show? Or Do you listen to my show?
  • Candy said this is her book. Or Candy said this is the book.

Conclusion

Articles in English language have multiple purposes when you use them in a sentence. Using the correct article will help you communicate your points more efficiently. You won’t have any difficulties explaining what you want. And most importantly, your sentences will make a lot more sense.

Anyway, you need to practice your English many times to get used to using these articles. You slowly will understand the differences and can automatically use an article or even omit them in written or spoken form.