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Article Use (A, An and The)

Updated on March 20, 2012

Article Use (A, an, the)

Which Article to Use-

The articles “a” and “an” are used when talking about something general. For example, you might say that you want a sandwich. You don’t want a particular sandwich; any sandwich will do. In general cases, “a” is normally used, but “an” is used if the word that follows it begins with a vowel (I have an apple). The article “the” is used when talking about specific nouns. You might say that you want the marshmallow and peanut butter sandwich on the table. Not any sandwich will do. You want a specific sandwich!

When to Use Articles-

In order to know how to use articles, you need to know about count and non-count nouns. Count nouns are nouns that can be counted: 1 piano, 2 potatoes, 3 spoons. Non-count nouns can’t be counted: bacon, glass, hair, sand.

When you want to know whether a noun needs an article, first ask if it is count or non-count. All singular count nouns require an article (I have a banana). Plural count nouns do not normally take an article (I like bananas). However, plural count nouns take the article “the” if you are talking about a specific group of things (I like the bananas at McDonalds; I like the classes I’m taking this semester). “The” is the only article that plural nouns can take.

When deciding whether a non-count noun needs an article, it doesn’t matter whether the noun is plural or singular. Non-count nouns will never take the articles “a” or “an”. Non-count nouns can only take the article “the”, and only when the noun in question is specific. For example, you might say that you enjoy poetry (that is, poetry in general, so no article is needed). Or you could say that you enjoy the poetry of Lord Byron (a specific kind of poetry, so we use “the”). You might say that you like music (again, no article because we are talking about music in general) or that you like the music of Warren Zevon.


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    • Vidya Mallar profile image

      Vidya Mallar 6 years ago from India

      Nice to read.... it was very useful......