Articles and Their Use


Articles are considered adjectives. They are also included among determiners.
There are three articles in English: a, an, the.

 1. Indefinite Article: a, an.
 2. Definite article: the.

         There was a cottage near the lake.
         A dog bit him.
         There is an apple in the box.
         We ran to catch the bus.


A or an = one. They are used before singular countable nouns only.

a: We use a before a word beginning with a consonant.
     I saw a cow.
     Are you a student of this College?

an: We use an before a word beginning with a vowel sound.
      An elephant is a big animal.
      My father works in an office.

We also use an before words beginning with –h when it is not sounded. We say a hero (-h is sounded here) but an hour (because –h sound is omitted here) here are some other words in which h is not sounded and which take an before them:
Heir, heiress, honest, honorarium, honorary, honourable.

  Ali is an honest boy.
  Mary is an honorary secretary of the club.

When the initial vowel in a word is spoken like the  y in yet take a before them.
  He is a European.
 The soldier is wearing a uniform.
 The workers have formed a union.

We must use a or an when there is an adjective before a noun. In such cases a or an
is placed before the adjective.

A boy,
An intelligent boy.
An ant,
A red ant.

We use indefinite article a or an :

(a) to introduce a countable for the first time.
     There is a boy outside.. Ask the boy to come in.
 The first sentence tells us about a boy whom we don’t know. The second sentence
 refers to this particular boy who is outside. So we use the definite article the in the
  second sentence.

(b) to refer to a person or a thing as representative of a class
      A cow gives milk. (= Every cow gives milk.)
      A rose is a beautiful flower. (=Every rose is beautiful)

(c ) in expression of rate, speed, measure etc. In all these expressions a or an means
       each or any.
     How much money does he earn a day?
     The car runs at 60 kilometers an hour.
     I want only half a cup of tea.

(d) Before names of a professions.
     He is a doctor.
     Ali wants to be an accountant.

(e) a sometimes means the same:
    The shirts are all of a size. (=all of the same size)
    Birds of a feather flock together. (=  birds of the same kind)

(f) in some phrases expressing number or quantity.
    He bought a dozen of eggs.
    There are about a hundred trees in the garden.
    The students made a lot of noise in the class.

(g) in exclamation:

     What a Pity!
     What an ugly sight!

(h) before names of persons to indicate unfamiliarity.
     There is a Mr. Rafiq at the door. Does any one here know him? (The speaker does not
     know him)

(i)Sometimes an indefinite article is used before proper nouns to describe another person or thing.
   The new king is a Solomon in his judgments. (= the new king is wise as king
  I will build a Taj Mahhal in memory of my wife.(= I will build a beautiful building
  like the Taj Mahal.)

(j) The indefinite article may come after many, such, quite and rather.
    Many a boy will like to earn good result.
    I am not such a fool as to give you money.
    The function was quite a success.
    It is rather a pity that he has failed.

(k) a or an must be  placed between the adjective and the noun when the adjective is preceded by so, as, too, how.

     It is not so a victory as you think.
     I have never seen as big a fish as this.
     It is too difficult a question for me to solve.
     We came to know only late how important a man he was.

We do not use indefinite article a or an:

a) before uncountable nouns: advice, news, water, paper, silver, tea, honesty, hair, cloth, etc.

We cannot say,

 He gave me an advice.
 I took a tea.
 Here is a good news for you.

But sometimes uncountable nouns are used in a special way and become countable nouns. Then they take the indefinite article before them.

 These ornaments are made of gold. (uncountable)
 He won a gold at the Olympics. (a gold medal)
 Give me paper for writing.
 He read a paper on Films at the conference. (an essay)

b) before names of meals.

The family sits for lunch at 10 o’clock.
We usually have our dinner late at night.

But when we describe a particular lunch or dinner we say,

We had a hearty lunch today.
They gave us a heavy dinner.


Uses of Definite Article:

We use definite article the before singular and plural countable nouns and before uncountable nouns.
a) It is most commonly used for persons or things that have already been mentioned.
    There is a boy outside. Ask the boy to come in.
    My father gave me a watch. The watch was very expensive.

b) we use definite article for nouns when the reference is definite and is clear from the context:

 This is the flat I live in.  The bedrooms are small but the drawing room is quite big.

c) Sometimes the context is given in a phrase that follows the noun. In such cases the noun carries the definite article.

The passengers in the bus are all students.
 Which is the road to the station?

d) Sometimes the context is given in a clause that follows the noun. Such nouns also take the definite article.

  The clothes he is wearing are expensive.
  The gentleman you just met is my old teacher.

e) Sometimes the context is not openly given but is understood.

   The room is airy. (=the room which the speaker is talking about)
   Get out of the class.
   Look up the word in the dictionary.
f) We do not use articles with material and abstract nouns when they are used in a general way.

   Give me water to drink.
   Money doesn’t grow on trees.
   Courage is the noblest quality of man.

But when such nouns are made specific in a sentence with the help of a phrase or a clause, they take the definite article.

 The water in the jug is unclear.
  I have lost the money you gave me.
  The courage that he showed in saving the child is uncommon.

g) The is used before a singular countable noun when it represents a class or kind.
     The businessman will always think of money.
     The bus is the cheapest means of travel.

h) Names of buildings or places etc. like church, school, hospital, prison do not take
the definite article when we refer to the purpose for which they are used.

  We go to mosque on Friday. (that is for prayer)
   The children are going to school. (that is for studying)
   I spent five weeks in hospital. (for treatment)

But when the reference is merely to the building or the place an article is used.
  There is a mosque across the river.
  You can easily see the mosque from here.
   There is a good school  in our area.
   We all gave money for the construction of the school.
   A good hospital is always clean.
   The hospital is located outside the city.

i) Plural nouns do not take the before them when they are used in general sense.

  Mangoes are sweet.
  Dogs are faithful animals.

But when they are particularized, we use the definite article with them.

   Some of the mangoes in the basket are unripe.
   The dog in the street ran after the girl.

j) The is used before names of inhabitants of a country.

     The English live in England.
     The Japanese are hardworking people.

j) Proper nouns do not generally have an article before them but there are many exceptions. The is used before names of mountains ranges, rivers, lakes, seas, oceans, canals, deserts, island groups, and countries which are unions of smaller states etc.

  The Himalayas are the highest mountains in the world.
   Japan is in the Pacific Ocean.
  Which desert is bigger-the Sahara or the Gobi?
  The Suez Canal joins two seas.
  The West Indies have a very strong cricket team.
  I have seen the USA.

k) We use the before the names of government departments, ministries, organizations, famous building, ships, aero planes etc.

   My friend works in the Ministry of Education.
   The UNESCO is doing very useful work.
    The Titanic sank down in the Atlantic Ocean.
    Who built the Taj Mahal?

l)The is used before names of great  and holy books.
    I read the Holy Quran Everyday.
    The Iliad is a great book.

m) Names of unique objects take the before them.
    The earth moves round the sun.
    The sky is blue.

n) The is used before superlatives.

The finest silk comes from china.
 Give me the best book on the subject.

o) The is used before adjectives and adverbs in the comparative degree in same cases.
   The more money you get, the less satisfied you feel.
   The faster you run, the more you feel tired.

p) The is used before adjectives used as plural nouns.
     The poor are born to suffer. (the poor people)
     Let us visit a school for the blind. (blind people)

q) The is used with names of families.
     We have invited the Smiths to dinner.
      The Khans stayed with us in the last winter.


a) We do not use an article before nouns that follow certain phrases such as, kind of, sort of, type of.

    What kind of man are you?
    They like this sort of company.

b) No article  is used in phrases such as, on foot, by bus, by train, by air, by ship, by registered post, by money order, etc.

  I go to school on foot.
  I came here by taxi.
  Fewer people travel by ship these days.
  I sent my application by registered post.

c) No article is used before names of the festivals.
   Eid is a time for joy.
   Easter always fall on a Sunday.

But we say,

The Easter holidays, The Eid holidays.

d) When talking of relations like father, mother, uncle etc. In a personal context, we do not use the with them.

  Mother wants you immediately.
  Uncle gave me this pen.

But we can say,
 A mother always loves her child
 She is the mother of  five children.

e) While talking of diseases and complaints , we omit the article before  fever, earache, and names of diseases like pneumonia, malaria, cancer, yellow fener, diarrhea, jaundice.

She has high fever.
Ali is suffering from malaria.

But we use a with complaints of general nature.
   His brother has a severe headache.
   Ali has a sore throat.

(a) Put into the plural:
1.     A cat is an animal.
2.     A table is made of wood.
3.     A cow gives milk.
4.     Give me a pen and ink.
5.     I like honey on a slice of bread.
6.     A dog eats meat.

(b) Put into the singular:
1.     Tigers live in forests.
2.     Children like jam and butter on bread.
3.     Birds build nests in trees.
4.     Cakes are made with flour and milk.
5.     Elephants have long lives.
6.     Rats fear cats.

Fill in the blanks with a or an.
1.     ….handkerchief is made of cloth.
2.     Let us take …. bus.
3.     He is ….honest man.
4.     They went to …. holy place.
5.     ….humble man is not always good.
6.     Sam will join ….university after high school.
7.     ….European came to our school.
8.     There was ….Indian with him.
9.     The train took …hour to reach there.
10.                        Let us form …. union.
11.                        Teaching is ….good profession.
12.                        It is …honourable profession too.
13.                        German is ….easy language to learn.
14.                        …child can learn…language more easily than …adult.
15.                        He bought …umbrella…year ago.

Fill in the blanks with a, an, the.
1.     Man has reached ….moon.
2.     There is …woman on ….moon.
3.     I saw ….bus on ….road. Suddenly ….small boy ran across….road. There was…. accident …..bus ran over ……boy.
4.     She is ….prettiest girl in….class.
5.     ….proposal to start …new bus route was discussed by ….staff.
6.     I know …man sitting in …corner.
7.     …plane going to London developed engine trouble.
8.     If ….night is cold, use …blanket.
9.     Let’s meet ….headmaster.
10.                        ….eagle has very sharp eyes.
11.                        His visit is …..honour for us.
12.                        Don’t carry such ….heavy load;…heavier ….load, ……more difficult it is to carry.

Supply a, an, or the wherever necessary.
1.     ….elephant never forgets.
2.     ….children have come back from….school.
3.     I like …lot of ….sugar in ….. cup of …coffee.
4.     …….school is quite far  from here.
5.     ….gold is ….metal.
6.     ….that we use comes from …U.S.S.R.
7.     ….uncle of mine speaks …French.
8.     What….beautiful music!
9.     What ….fine performance!
10.              What …..ugly sight!
11.              There was ….long bridge on river Kwai . …bridge was destroyed during …last war.
12.              I don’t like these sorts of ….stories.
13.              ….ship comes once ….week.
14.              We have …flight to Nairobi once …week.
15.              He is studying to be …engineer.
16.              I can’t listen to you all at …time.
17.              Today ….country requires ….efficient government more than ever before.
18.              …year ago …..apples were very cheap.
19.              Draw …map of ….Nigeria.
20.              I seldom get ….good news.
21.               We will go on tour of West Indies during Christmas holidays.
22.              ….waiter brought …tea and ….biscuits.
23.              ….tea was cold and …biscuits were stale.
24.              I don’t have …courage to fight him.
25.              ….courage is of various kinds….soldier shows …physical courage. But …best kind is …moral courage.
26.              Throw him out of …window.
27.              Arrange… the book on …table.
28.              Many….candidate came for  ….. interview.
29.              My father goes to….. office  at 8a.m.
30.              We have opened ….new office in ….capital.
31.              …. office open at ten but there is …long queue already.
32.              ….magistrate sent him to …..prison for theft.
33.              I have not sailed through….Atlantic Ocean.
34.              There is always snow on …Alps.
35.              I read ….Koran every morning.
36.              … is full of ….stars at night.
37.              ….rich are getting richer, ….poor poorer.
38.              ….bus had left. So we came by …taxi.
39.              It is nice to play …game of badminton on ….summer evening.
40.              …war brings sorrows.
41.              This is one of …best stores in … city.
42.              France is ….European country.
43.              ….European climate does not suit me.
44.               He gave …example to prove the point. But … example was not very good.
45.              I will give you … better example.
46.              I met …. Interesting stranger on …train. …man seemed to know about … future of everyone.
47.               Wilsons are coming over to us for …. Dinner on Sunday and we are going over to ….MacMillans ….day after.
48.              What ….horrible woman!
49.              I nave never read such… well-written book.
50.              What …wonderful music he is playing!
51.              His passing the examination is quite….achievement.
52.              What… happy news!
53.               What… awful piece of news!
54.               What… idiot you are!
55.              What… long nose!
56.              That is rather …..foolish remark to make.
57.              I am not such ….big fool as to marry you.
58.              She has ….high fever.
59.              George is suffering from…pneumonia.
60.              My sister has …bad cold. She has … toothache too.
61.              Do you have …headache? No, I have … stomachache.

Insert appropriate articles wherever necessary.
         On …. Afternoon of that day……potter arrived home after….honest day’s work. He was tired and thirsty. He asked his wife for some palm wine . ……more he drank, ….better he felt. When he had drunk all …wine he no longer felt tired. Soon …storm started blowing. He suddenly remembered that he had left his donkey tied under …tree. He rushed out of his hut to take ….animal into …..stable. You can imagine his anger when he discovered that …. Donkey was not there any more …. Only thing left was its chain. 

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