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Use of Articles - A, An, The in English Grammar

Use of Articles - A, An, The in English Grammar
Use of Articles - A, An, The in English Grammar

Brief Introductions: 
  • "A" and "An" area called Indefinite Articles, as they do not point out any particular person or thing. They are used only before the singular countable.
  • "The" is called as the Definite Article as it points to some particular person or thing.
  • The definite article can be used before singular or plural nouns whether countable or uncountable.
  • A common noun in the singular number should have an article before it.
 "A" is used before -
  • A consonant. Ex. A boy, A B.A pass.
  • Vowels that sound like "you". Ex. A Useful thing, A Unit, A European etc.
  • "O" when it sounds like "W". Ex. A One-Rupee Note, a One-eyed deer.
"An" is used before -
  • A vowel. Ex. An Eye, An Idiot, An Orange.
  • A consonant beginning with a vowel sound. Ex. An M.A, An M.D, An honest boy, An hour.
Special Uses of "A" and "An"-
  • Generalizing "A" and "An"- An or A is used sometimes to before a noun to indicate a class.
  • Ex. A son should obey his parents. An ant is a little creature. / Potatoes sell at one kilo a (per) rupee. / I get 50 Rupees a month.
  • A is used in the sense of a certain. Ex. A Mr. Roy came to see me.
  • A is used in a number of phrases. Ex. In a temper, to have a cold, in a hurry, to take an interest in.
  • A is sometimes used to mean a single or any. Ex. There was not a person to support him, though no one spoke a word against him openly.
  • A is sometimes means one like some other person. Ex. He thinks he is a Salman Khan.
  • A is used before the determinants like little, few, lot of. Ex. There are a few Apples on the table. There is a little water in the pot. There are a lot of books in the library.
  • An or A is also used in certain exclamatory sentences beginning with “What”. Ex. What a thing to say! , What an awful comment to make!
Rules of Using "The" -
“The” is used before: The names of –
  • Rivers. Ex. The Ganga, The Nile etc.
  • Gulfs. Countries Ex. The Gulf of Thailand etc.
  • Seas. Ex. The Black Sea, The Arabian Sea.
  • Mountain Ranges. Ex. The Himalayas, The Alps.
  • Group of Islands. Ex. The Andamans, The Nikobars.
  • Ships. Ex. The Titanic.
  • Newspapers. The Statesman, The Hindu.
  • Descriptive geographical or Significant Names. The Deccan, The USA.
  • Holy Books. Ex. The Geeta, The Bible.
  • Noted Public Places. Ex. The High Court, The Senate House.
  • Important Events. Ex. The Sepoy Mutiny etc.
  • Trains, Planes and Space Crafts. Ex. The Punjab Mail, The Skylab.
  • Singular Common Nouns to represent a whole class. Ex. The dog is a faithful animal. 
  • Nouns to point out a person or a thing known or already referred to. Ex Come into the hall(The hall is already known or referred to). 
  • Singular nouns referring to things of which only one exists. Ex. The Sun, The Sky.
  • In case of Superlatives. Ex. He is the best of them.
  • In case of Comparatives. Ex. The more the merrier. (as adverb), He is the cleverer of the two boys.(as contrast)
  • A National name with plural notion to denote people collectively. Without the that noun indicates the language of the people. Ex. The English play cricket very well. (The English people), English is a rich language. (English language)
  • Adjectives with a plural notion, to indicate a whole class of persons. But the two forms must not be combined. Ex. The rich are not always happy. (Correct)/ Rich men are not always happy. (Correct). / The rich men are not always happy. (Incorrect)
  • Common nouns as the substitute for the Possessive adjective. Ex. He stared me in the (my) face. 
  • Nouns defined by the adjectives or adverbial phrases or clauses. Ex. The Black cat, The men who came here yesterday are my friends.
  • Some Adjectives and Common nouns in the singular number to express an abstract idea. Ex. Do not leap in the dark. / The mother (motherly feelings) in her could not bear the sight.
  • Adjectives to denote particular parts of things. He likes the yellow part of an egg.
  • Ordinal Numbers written in letters. But when written in Roman Notation, no articles must be used. Ex. George the Fifth (George V).
  • Nouns to indicate a profession. Ex. She joined the Bar.
  • The names of the Musical Instruments. Ex. He plays the Violin.
  • The plural names of the families. Ex. The Sahas, The Smiths.
  • Proper, material and Abstract nouns to make them common. Ex. Kalidas is the Shakespere of India.
  • The is sometimes used before a noun to give it the force of a superlative. Ex. He is the singer of the day.

Omission of Articles-
No Article is normally used-
  • Before Proper, Material or Abstract Nouns, except when those are particularized. Ex.  Ashoka(But the king Ashoka), Gold (But the Gold of India), Honesty (But the honesty of the boy).
  • Before Common Nouns in the Plural Number, except when they are particularized. Ex. Dogs bark. (The dogs of my house bark.) 
  • Before a Common or Collective Noun, preceded by the phrases kind or species or sort of, or when used in the widest sense. Ex. He is a man with good sense of humor. (Man, bird and beast are subject to death.)
  • Before man in the sense of mankind, and before father, mother and child when a particular one of them is meant. Ex. Man is mortal. Father gifted a pen.
  • In many idiomatic phrases. To take root (to be firmly established), to call to mind (to remember), to give ear to (to hear), to set foot on, by boat, at night, to attend school etc.
  • Before the words school, church, prison, hospital, court, college, market and other localities. These take no articles when we indicate the use made of the building or object. Ex. Rama has gone to school. (to learn)/ Rama has gone to the school. (not to learn but to see the place)/ Rama throws a ball right over the top of the school. (Building)
  • Before the names of squares, buildings, parks, streets etc. consisting of a proper name. Ex. Jatin Das Park, Buckingham Palace.
  • Before the names of meal. ( as a part of daily routine). Ex. We have dinner at 8 p.m.
  • Before the names of season and festivals, though definite articles may also found in certain general statements. Ex. Winter is the best time for Picnic. /The first time I was in Manali was in the summer.
  • Before Compliments to the factitive verbs. Ex. Sourav was elected captain.
Repetition of Articles-
  • When two or more nouns are joined by and refer to the same thing, the article is used only before the first, but if they refer to different persons or things, the articles must be repeated before each. Ex. The Secretary and the Principal have arranged the program. (Two separate men)/ The Secretary and Principal has arranged the program. (Same person)
  • In case of a comparison, if two nouns refer to the same object, the article must be used before the first noun only. Ex. He is a better poet than speaker.
  • When two or adjectives refer to the same noun, the article is used before the first. Ex. I have a brown and white cat (one cat).
  • When two or adjectives refer to the different nouns, the article is used before each adjective. Ex. I have a brown and a white cat (two cats).
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