Articles are used to define a noun, or noun phrase, as specific or unspecific. Article is form word that cannot occur in sentence independently and is always in front of a noun or noun phrase. For example,
- The cup of tea tasted good.
- Who is the author of the green book?
English has two types of articles: definite and indefinite.
The: Definite Article, it limits the meaning of a noun to one particular thing. For example, if you mentioned "the computer", it should be a specific computer, namely "this computer" or "that computer", not refer to unspecific computer.
The definite article can be used with singular, plural, or even uncountable nouns. For example,
- Please give me the hammer. (hammer, individual noun in singular)
- Let's review the new words of 2nd chapter.(words, individual noun in plural)
- He works hard for the welfare of poor people. (welfare, abstract noun, uncountable)
A or An: Indefinite Article, which only appears with singular nouns, has two forms but is with exactly same function. a is when it precedes a word that begins with a consonant, while an is when it precedes a word that begins with a vowel. It indicates that a noun refers to an unspecific thing rather than a particular one. For example, "give me an apple" means any apple, but not a specific one.
Examples of a or an, notice that "a" or "an" is relies on the word that exactly following it, no matter if the word is noun, adjective, or others.
- an island
- an umbrella
- an ounce
- an honest man
- an hour
- a gril
- a red apple
- a university
- a one-act play
- a European city
- a humble man
There are a few exceptions to the general rule about starting with consonants or vowels. For example, "honor" starts with a consonant, but "h" isn't pronounced, so the word honor begins with a vowel sound. Therefore, we use "an" in front of "honor". Similarly, we use "a" before "university".
This holds true with acronyms and initialisms, such as
- an LCD
- a UK-based company
- an HR department
- a URL.
2. Basic Meanings of The Article
Although articles (the, a or an) cannot be used independently, they still have basic meanings.
The: Originate as same as "this" or "that", weaker than "this" or "that" but can be used on both singular and plural objects. For example:
- Put it on the table.
- Who is the young man over there?
- Please renew the books tomorrow.
A or An: Originate as same as "one", can be used on singular of countable noun. For example:
- She is a teacher.
- He comes with an Irish wife.
- Please give me a bottle of water.
3. Nouns in Specific and unspecific Context
When we use a noun, it may refer a specific item, or represents an unspecific object. For example:
- Have a seat. (any seat)
- Is the seat taken? (a specific seat)
- Can you lend me a book? (any book)
- Can you lean me the book? (a specific book)
To refer a specific object, we usually need to apply definite article "the". As for unspecific objects, we divide them into 3 cases.
Countable singular nouns: Add indefinite article, a or an, this is the commonest case. For example,
- It's a nice car.
- She sent her boss an email.
Countable plural nouns: Don't use article, but may add "some" or "any" to express unspecific objects. For example,
- These are new words.
- She brought us some flowers.
Uncountable nouns: Don't use article, sometimes add "some" or "any". For example,
- It's lovely weather.
- Give me some help.
We summarize specific and unspecific use cases as following cases.
|Type of||One, Some, Any|
|Countable Singular||the book||a book||a book|
|Countable Plural||the books||books||some/any books|
|Uncountable||the sugar||sugar||some/any sugar|