The English language uses articles to identify nouns. Articles act much like adjectives. Articles clarify whether a noun is specific or general, singular or plural. An article appears before the noun it accompanies.
There are two types of articles
- Definite article: the
- Indefinite article: a, a.
Place the article before the noun.
e.g., the house the cat a dog a book
Place the article before the adjective when the noun is modified by an adjective.
e.g., the purple house the black cat a white dog an open book < Correct
the house purple or a dog white < Incorrect
Do not add an article when the noun has a possessive pronoun (my, his, her, our, their) or a demonstrative pronoun (this, that).
e.g., my house her book that house this book < Correct
the my house or the this book < Incorrect
DEFINITE ARTICLE: the
Use the to identify specific or definite nouns: nouns that represent things, places, ideas, or persons that can be identified specifically.
Use the with both singular and plural definite nouns.
- the house, the houses
- the business, the businesses
Use the to identify things, places, ideas, or persons that represent a specific or definite group or category.
- The students in Professor Smith’s class should study harder.
- The automobile revolutionized travel and industry.
(the automobile identifies a specific category of transportation)
INDEFINITE ARTICLE: a or an
Use a or an to identify nouns that are not definite and not specific.
Think of a and an as meaning any or one among many.
- a book (any book)
- a dog (any dog)
- a cat (one cat)
- a house (one among many houses)
Use a or an only for singular nouns.
Do not use an article for a plural, indefinite noun.
Think of a plural, indefinite noun as meaning all.
- Students should study hard. (All students should study hard.)
When to use a and when to use an
Choose when to use a or an according to the sound of the noun that follows it.
- Use a before consonant sounds.
- a book
- a dog
Use a before a sounded h, a long u, and o with the sound of w.
- a hat
- a house
- a union
- a uniform
- a one-hour appointment
Use an before vowel sounds (except long u).
- an asset
- an essay
- an index
- an onion
- an umbrella
Use an when h is not sounded.
- an honor
- an hour