Articles: A, An, The

Articles are common mistakes that many people make in their writing. It is often easy to confuse which article to use in one’s sentences especially when you are hurriedly trying to finish a paper for class. Here is a quick refresher on what articles and how to use them.

Articles are used before nouns. In the English language there are two types of articles: the definite and indefinite article.

Definite article: The definite article is the word The. It is used to specify a particular noun or subject. The could be used both for singular and plural nouns.

Example:

  • I can not wait to wear the bright yellow sweater for school tomorrow.
  • Can you please hand me the stapler?

The article The cannot be used over some geographical nouns. Such as:

  • Most Countries: ( Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, China except The Dominican Republic, The Philippines, etc.)
  • Names of cities, towns, and states
  • Name of streets

Indefinite article: The indefinite article takes on two forms. It takes on the A form if it precedes a noun that starts with a constant. It takes on the An form if it precedes a noun that starts with a vowel.

Example:

  • Please bring a book to the meeting so we can discuss it with the group.
  • My brother bought me an iphone for my birthday.

If there’s an adjective before the noun, the article follows the sound of the adjective.

  • A broken mirror
  • An abandoned house

There are a few exceptions to the  usage of a and an.

If a consonant is the first letter of the word and it is unpronounced, the usage of A turns to An.

This applies vice versa where if the first letter of the word is a vowel and it is unpronounced, the usage of An turns to A.

Example:

Incorrect: My friend is such a honest person.

Correct: My friend is such an honest person.

Incorrect: She is an European citizen.

Correct: She is a European citizen.

A good resource to use is Purdue Online Writing Lab for more information on articles and their usage.

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