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15.4: Articles

  • Page ID
    225963
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    What are they?

    The English language has definite (“the”) and indefinite articles (“a” and “an”). The use depends on whether you are referring to a specific member of a group (definite) or to any member of a group (indefinite).

    Indefinite Articles: “a” and “an Definite Article: “the
    You will use an indefinite article when referring to any member of a group or one your readers are not yet familiar with. You will use the definite article when referring to a specific member of a group.

    The indefinite article “a” is used when the word following it (which may be a noun or an adjective) begins with a consonant or with a consonant sound.

    • a dog
    • a computer
    • a onetime sale

    The indefinite article “an” is used when the word following it begins with a vowel (a, e, i, o, or u).

    • an apple
    • an ellipsis
    • an umbrella

    The consonant and vowel rules that apply to “a” and “an” do not apply to the use of “the.”

    • the neighbor’s dog
    • the nice nephew
    • the mooing cows
    • the building
    • the red hairdryer
    • the airplane

    If you were to say, “Juan set his keys on a table,” it would tell the reader that Juan chose any table, an unspecific table, one of many.

    If you were to say, “Marcus goes swimming in a lake on Fridays,” the reader understands that which lake Marcus chose really isn’t important, and might even change from week to week.

    If you were to say, “Juan set his keys on the table,” it would tell the reader that Juan chose a specific table, one you may have already mentioned.

    If you were to say, “Marcus goes swimming in the lake on Fridays,” the reader understands that it is a specific lake, and that he goes to the same place each week.

    Plural Indefinite Article - some

    You will use the word “some” before a plural noun (or its modifying adjective):

    • some hairs
    • some boxes

    The singular: I put all of my clothes in a box I found in the basement.

    The plural: I put all of my clothes in some boxes I found in the basement.

    Plural Nouns

    Plural nouns do not require an indefinite article: “I love apples,” instead of “I love an apples.” (You must use the definite article if you have already introduced the idea or are referring to a specific member of a group: “I love the apples grown across the street.”)

    Non-count Nouns

    Non-count nouns, which include concepts and ideas that cannot be counted in number, may or may not require an article: no one hard and fast rule applies. You can write “Kindness spreads like wildfire,” instead of “A kindness spreads like wildfire,” or “The kindness spreads like wildfire” (unless you are referring to a specific kindness mentioned elsewhere in your writing, as in “the kindness you showed me”).

    Proper Nouns

    Proper nouns, which name a particular person, place or thing, sometimes take the article “the” and sometimes do not.

    • Soda is damaging to your teeth, but everyone still drinks it.
    • The soda in my cup is flat, so I think I will throw it out.
    • We are going to meet at the White House.

    Do not use “the” before:

    • names of countries (except the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States)
    • names of cities, towns or states
    • names of streets
    • names of lakes and bays (except a group of lakes—the Great lakes)
    • names of mountains (except mountain ranges—the Rockies)
    • names of continents
    • names of islands (except island chains—the Canary islands)

    Do use “the” before:

    • names of rivers, oceans and seas
    • points on the globe
    • geographical areas
    • deserts, forests, gulfs and peninsulas

    Adapted from:

    www.owl.english.purdue.edu/ha...sl/eslart.html 3/14/06 – 10:00AM & The Brief Holt Handbook, Fourth Edition, Kirszner & Mandell, 2004

    Practice

    Exercise 1 – Definite and Indefinite Articles

    Fill in the blank for each sentence using either a, an, or the, or leave the space blank if none is needed.

    Example:

    I was going to the beach where my cousin Willie lost his board in the waves.


    1. Last week _______ seagull dropped his fish onto my car.
    1. Maria took out _______ garbage before reading.
    1. _______ surfboard cut through the waves as she sped toward the beach.
    1. Sculpture is _______ interesting art form, whether in metal, clay or uranium.
    1. I love picnics—especially when I remember _______ food.
    1. My house is falling apart, _______ shutters are in disrepair, and _______ windows are broken.
    1. The brothers met to discuss _______ possible solution.
    1. I went to the lab to work on _______ computer, but they were all taken.
    1. Well, professor, _______ alien came and stole my gray matter before I could finish my homework.
    1. This semester _______ same student violated his restraining order.
    1. She passed him to avoid _______ confrontation involving _______ police.
    1. I want to go to _______ part of Ukraine where they speak _______ Russian dialect.
    1. The assistants found _______ theme that meant the most to them, and they wove it carefully into _______ handbook they could be proud of.
    1. _______ airplane’s tires skidded down _______ Los Angeles Airport’s main runway before knocking out _______ baggage cart and _______ fuel truck.
    1. I am studying _______ American history in school, but only after I pass my Biology class and ace _______ final exam.
    Answer

    Exercise 1 – Definite and Indefinite Articles

    Fill in the blank for each sentence using either a, an, or the, or leave the space blank if none is needed.

    1. Last week a seagull dropped his fish onto my car.
    1. Maria took out the garbage before reading.
    1. The surfboard cut through the waves as she sped toward the beach.
    1. Sculpture is an interesting art form, whether in metal, clay or uranium.
    1. I love picnics—especially when I remember the food.
    1. My house is falling apart, the shutters are in disrepair, and the . windows are broken.
    1. The brothers met to discuss a possible solution.
    1. I went to the lab to work on a computer, but they were all taken.
    1. Well, professor, an alien came and stole my gray matter before I could finish my homework.
    1. This semester the same student violated his restraining order.
    1. She passed him to avoid a confrontation involving the police.
    1. I want to go to the part of Ukraine where they speak a Russian dialect.
    1. The assistants found the theme that meant the most to them, and they wove it carefully into a handbook they could be proud of.
    1. The airplane’s tires skidded down X Los Angeles Airport’s main runway before knocking out a baggage cart and a fuel truck.
    1. I am studying X American history in school, but only after I pass my Biology class and ace the final exam.

    This page titled 15.4: Articles is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Skyline English Department.

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