Articles: a, an & the. Learn all about when to use ‘a’ or ‘an’ and when and how to use ‘the.’
Welcome to English Grammar Spot! This lesson is about
‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’. Otherwise known as articles. Take a look at the following sentences
The man walked right past me.
A giant spider crawled across the ceiling.
An elephant is a large animal.
All the underlined words here are articles. First I am going to show you how and when to use ‘a’. We use ‘a’ before a word that starts
with a constant for example: B, C, D, F, G, H, J , K, L, M, N, P. Q, R, S, T, V, W, X, Y, Z. For example:
A blue bird.
A nice man.
A wonderful dinner.
Hereblue, nice and wonderful all start with consonants. Now I’m going to show you how and when to use ‘an’.We use ‘an’ before a word that starts with a vowel. And the vowels in the English language are
A, E, I, O, U.
Now there are some exceptions. The use of ‘a’ or ‘an’ depends on the beginning sound so the word might start with a consonant
or a vowel, but we really need to listen to how the word it is pronounced.
For example: hour. We see an ‘H’ but we hear a vowel sound at the beginning ‘our’ and ‘hour’. So what do we do in this case? We use the article ‘an.’ Because we hear a vowel sound. So we say
an hour and not a hour.
Another exception: the use of ‘a’ and ‘an’ depends on the
beginning sound unique. We see a ‘U’ but we hear a consonant sound ‘you’. So what to do we do we do here?
a unique chance
and not an unique chance. So remember, you have to listen carefully to how the word is pronounced and then you choose whether you use ‘a’ or ‘an’.
Now we need to talk about the indefinite and the definite article.
We already talked about ‘a’ and ‘an’. but we also need to talk about ‘the’. ‘A’ and ‘an’ are indefinite articles. They are used to describe one or a number of things, but that also goes for ‘the’.
But here ‘the’ is the definite article and it is used to describe one or
number of things So what is the difference? The indefinite
article describes things in general. For instance a dog barks. Because that is what dogs do. Or a cat ‘miaauws’ The definite article describes specific things. For example when we say
the dog barks, we have a particular dog in mind.
For instance the dog of your neighbours or a dog that we see in the street. Now there is also something that we call
the ‘zero article’. Here we do not use an article at all whereas in other languages we might. Sometimes an article is left out. This happens when there’s only one of someone or something. For example:
Sally is head teacher
there’s only one head teacher in school and perhaps most important
Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom
there’s only one queen in England.
Sometimes ‘the’ is left out. When talking about
seasons in general spring is in the air, not the spring is
in the air but when we talk about a general season we use ‘the.’ I visited her in in the spring of 2012. Here I have a
particular moment in mind. Again sometimes ‘the’ is left out, for instance when talking about meals in general. When shall we have lunch?
I was very happy with the lunch she served.
And again here we use ‘the’ because we have a specific lunch in mind. We also do not use an article when talking about church, hospital, prison , school, university in general. So ‘the’ is left out, only when we talk about the function of the building
For instance, he went to university last year. So here we do not have a particular university in mind. Whereas: The university is well situated. This is about a particular university. For instance Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale.
The is left out when we talk about languages. Arabic is difficult to learn. I love learning English.
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