Join Sandra and I as we study articles. Don’t forget to read the notes below. See you in class!
In English there are two types of articles; definite and indefinite. Articles precede and describe nouns.
THE INDEFINITE ARTICLE
First, let’s look at the indefinite article. There are two; a and an. Indefinite articles are used when when the subject of the noun is not specific, or to introduce something that is not known to the listener. We do not put a/an in front of plural nouns, they can only be used in front of singular nouns. For example;
He always goes to a small place. (We don’t know the place)
We know an old woman. (We don’t know the woman)
I love red shoes! (Plural noun)
A or an?
A is used in front of consonant sounds, and an is used in front of vowel sounds. Usually, this is easy; if the word starts with a consonant, use a, if it starts with a vowel, use an, but remember that we are talking about pronunciation, and not spelling. This is important because sometimes we pronounce consonants as vowels and vice versa. For example;
A UN decision (UN is pronounced “you-en”, which starts with a consonant)
An SOS message (SOS is pronounced “es-oh-es” which starts with a vowel)
FIXED EXPRESSIONS WITH A/AN
We also use a/an in expressions such as:
Half an hour
Twice a year
€2 a litre
A or one?
You can use a/an or one in front of singular countable nouns to mean the same thing, for example:
We are going to Canada for a year
We are going to Canado for one year
But it’s important to remember that one is a number, and that a/an are articles. So we only use one when we want to emphasise the quantity, for example;
I want one orange juice (not two!!)
Are you staying only one night? (not more than one!!)
THE DEFINITE ARTICLE
Definite articles are used when the subject of the noun has been mentioned before. For example;
The woman takes a small child. I sometimes see the child.
I know a place. It is the big place.
Definite articles are also used when the subject of the noun is already known to the listener. For example;
I never see the small part. (We already know the part)
The right eyes are always different. (We already know the eyes)
As you can see, definite articles can be used in front of singular and plural nouns, and before consonants and vowels.
THE ZERO ARTICLE
In certain specific situations in English we don’t use any article (called the zero article). Usually this is when we talk about concepts, rather than specific things, for example;
I love to play sport (not the sport)
They are afraid of heights (not the heights)
Climate can affect your mood (not the climate)
There are lots of other rules about the zero article, but they will be covered in other classes.