Articles: A Complete Grammar Guide

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If you’re a writer, then you know that articles: a complete grammar guide is important. But sometimes, it can be a little confusing to know when to use which form of a verb, for example. Or whether to use an article before a noun. This complete grammar guide will take the guesswork out of grammar and make sure you always sound your best. So whether you’re writing for work or for fun, make sure to bookmark this page!

Articles: A Complete Grammar Guide

What are articles and why do we use them

Articles are a ubiquitous part of our language, yet we often take them for granted. We use them all the time, in both spoken and written English, but do we really understand what they are and how they work?

An article is a word that goes before a noun to signal whether the noun is specific or unspecific. In other words, it tells us whether the noun is referring to a particular thing or not. There are two main types of articles in English: definite and indefinite.

Definite articles are used when we are referring to a specific noun. For example, “the dog” is definite because it refers to a specific dog that the speaker has in mind. Indefinite articles are used when we are referring to a noun in a more general way. For example, “a dog” is indefinite because it could be any dog, not just one particular dog.

So why do we need articles?

They help us to be more specific or more general in our language, which can be useful in many different situations. For example, if you want to talk about all dogs in general, you would use an indefinite article. But if you want to talk about one particular dog that you know, you would use a definite article.

There are also some situations where we don’t need an article at all. This usually happens when we are talking about something that is unique, like the sun or the moon. We also don’t use an article when we are talking about something in a general way that doesn’t refer to any specific thing, like “clothes” or “furniture”.

So next time you use an article in English, take a moment to think about why you are using it and what effect it has on your sentence. It might seem like a small thing, but using articles correctly can make a big difference to your communication in English!

2457113 edited Ranking Articles Articles: A Complete Grammar Guide

The indefinite article “a”

A and An are called indefinite articles because they refer to some unspecified thing or group of things.

A is the most common article in English, occurring before nouns that denote single, indefinite entities (“a person,” “a banana,” “a way to avoid using ‘the'”). We use “a” before consonants and before words beginning with a vowel sound (including “h” and the silent “h” of “hour”), regardless of how the word is spelled: an apple, an hour, an honor.

You can remember that it’s always correct to use “an” by thinking of the letter N, which has a vowel sound. Conversely, we use “the” before nouns that denote specific or known entities (“the moon,” “the President,” “the tallest building in the world”) as well as before plural and uncountable nouns (“the rich,” “the poor,” “the color blue”).

There’s also some confusion about what counts as a vowel sound. In general, if you can use “he” or “she” before the word, use “an.” If you can’t, use “a.” That covers most situations: an hour (the h is silent), but a history (the h is pronounced). An honor (you wouldn’t say *he honor), but a union (you wouldn’t say *he union). 

Technically, there are other rules about article usage, but in practice, these two will serve you well more than 99% of the time.

The definite article “the”

Articles are a special breed of adjective. They don’t describe the noun they modify, they point it out.

  • “I read the book.”
  • “He’s talking about the problem.”
  • “We went to the store.” 

This is the most common article in English, both in speaking and writing. It’s used before singular and plural nouns, regardless of whether the noun is specifically identified or not. 

The definite article “the” is also used before adjectives modifying singular count nouns when the adjective has been previously mentioned (“I love bananas, but I don’t like eating them when they’re brown; brown bananas are disgusting”).

Generally speaking, if you can substitute the word “one” for the article + noun combination without changing the meaning of your sentence, you should use “a”: One person can make a difference. If you can’t substitute “one,” you should use “the”:

The one person who can make a difference is you. In summary: If you’re not sure whether to use “a” or “the,” try using the word “one”: if it makes sense, use “a”; if it doesn’t make sense, use “the.” Easy!

Using articles with countable and uncountable nouns

There’s a lot of confusion around the use of articles with countable and uncountable nouns. To clear things up, let’s start with a quick definition of each. Countable nouns are those that can be quantified, like “one book,” “two cats,” or “three dogs.” Uncountable nouns, on the other hand, refer to things that can’t be easily quantified, like “water,” “air,” or “sand.”

With that in mind, here are a few general rules to keep in mind when using articles with countable and uncountable nouns:

  1. When referring to a specific countable noun, use “the” (e.g., “I’m looking for the book you recommended”).
  2. When referring to a specific uncountable noun, use “some” (e.g., “Can I borrow some water from you?”).
  3. When referring to a general countable noun, don’t use an article (e.g., “I love reading books”).
  4. When referring to a general uncountable noun, use “the” (e.g., “The air in this room is really stuffy”).
  5. When referring to a plural countable noun, don’t use an article (e.g., “I saw two cats playing in the park”).
  6. When referring to a plural uncountable noun, use “some” (e.g., “Can I borrow some sand from you for my sandbox?”).
  7. When referring to a group of people, use “the” (e.g., “The Smith family is coming over for dinner tonight”).
  8. When referring to an amount of money, don’t use an article (e.g., “I only have five dollars left”).

Following these guidelines should help you avoid any confusion when using articles with countable and uncountable nouns.

Contractions with articles

There’s a simple

When to use zero article “-“

A lot of people are confused about when to use the zero article “-” and when to omit it. The simple rule is this: if the noun you’re using is a countable noun, then you need to use the zero article. For example, you would say “I drank a coffee” because coffee is a countable noun.

However, if the noun is uncountable, then you don’t use the zero article. For example, you would say “I need sleep” because sleep is an uncountable noun. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but in general, it’s a good guideline to follow.

So next time you’re not sure whether to use the zero article or not, just ask yourself if the noun is countable or uncountable. If it’s countable, use the zero article; if it’s uncountable, don’t use it. And if you’re still not sure, consult a dictionary.

Special uses of the indefinite article “a”

There are four special uses of the indefinite article “a.” these are:

  1. When we’re referring to a singular noun that stands for a whole class. For example, “I have a dog.” Here, “dog” stands for all dogs, not just one specific dog.
  2. When we’re referring to a singular noun that is an unspecified member of a group. For example, “Can I borrow a book from you?” Here, we don’t know which book the speaker wants to borrow, so we use “a.”
  3. When we’re referring to a person or thing that is unique. For example, “There’s only one Moon,” or “Beethoven was a great composer.”
  4. When we’re referring to something that has already been mentioned. For example, “John has two cats. He gave one to his sister and kept the other.” In this sentence, we know which cat John kept because we’ve already talked about it. Therefore, we don’t need to use “the” again.

These are the four special uses of the indefinite article “a.” Remember them the next time you’re speaking or writing in English!

Special uses of the definite article “the”

The can be a very powerful word. It’s the most commonly used noun in the English language, and it has a variety of special uses. These are:

  • We often use “the” to indicate something that is unique or specific, as in “the sun,” “the moon,” or “the Earth.” We also use the to refer to a particular group or class of things, as in “the rich,” “the poor,” or “the disabled.”
  • In addition, the can be used to emphasize a particular quality or characteristic, as in “the more you know,” “the tougher the competition,” or “the larger the problem.”
  • We sometimes use the to express our opinion about something, as in “the best,” “the worst,” or “the most important.” As you can see, the is a very versatile word that can be used in a variety of ways.

So next time you’re writing, don’t be afraid to experiment with the power of the definite article.

Omission of articles

Articles are those little words that we use all the time: a, an, and the. They don’t seem like they would be very important, but in fact, they are essential for making our meaning clear. When we omit articles, it can change the entire meaning of what we’re trying to say.

  • For example, consider the following sentence: “I saw movie last night.”

Without the article “the,” this sentence could mean that you saw a particular movie or that you simply went to the movies in general. Including the article “the” helps to clarify our meaning. As a result, we should be careful to use articles correctly in our writing.

Articles are a small but important part of speech in the English language. Be sure to use them correctly in your writing, or you might just end up confusing your readers!

Double articles

The challenge with double articles is that they suggest a level of precision that’s often unwarranted. After all, we’re not talking about something that’s difficult to measure (like a teaspoon of sugar). We’re talking about words like “the” and “a,” which are nebulous concepts at best. And yet, when we use double articles, we’re implying that we know exactly what we’re talking about. That can be dangerous.

Take, for example, the phrase “the more, the better.” It’s a common saying, but it’s also imprecise. What if you’re trying to lose weight? In that case, more food is definitely not better. Or what if you’re trying to save money? More expensive items are not necessarily better. The point is, we need to be careful with our language. When we use double articles, we’re making a claim that may not be accurate. So let’s be careful out there.

Articles with proper nouns

An example sentence of articles with proper nouns is

  • “I saw the President of the United States in the park.”

Articles are a type of determiner, which is a word that precedes and provides context for a noun. In this sentence, “the” is used as a definite article to refer to a specific President, while “in” functions as a preposition to show the location where the speaker saw him.

We can also use “a” or “an” before a proper noun to make it more indefinite.

  • For example, “I saw an actor on the street.”

Here, “an” is used as an indefinite article because we don’t know which actor the speaker saw.

Remember, articles are a small but important part of speech. Be sure to use them correctly in your writing!

Articles with adjectives

Articles are a fascinating part of speech. They don’t describe the nouns they point to, they don’t modify verbs or adverbs… Articles are their own thing. They’re like little paintings, each one designed to give the reader a specific impression of the sentence that follows.

Think of how many different ways you could use the word “the” in a sentence. You could use it to point to a specific noun (“I read the article”), to indicate that there’s only one of something (“The sun is out”), or to suggest that what follows is essential information (“In the morning, I always brush my teeth”).

Adjectives are a similar part of speech. They don’t just modify nouns, they color them. When you string a few together, you can create an immersive experience for the reader. Articles and adjectives work together to give your writing precision and impact.

Here are a few examples of how you can use articles and adjectives together:

  • “I read the detailed article.”
  • “I read the long, detailed article.”
  • “I read the short article.”
  • “I read the long, boring article.”

As you can see, the combination of articles and adjectives can have a big impact on your writing. So be sure to use them wisely!

1025453 edited Ranking Articles Articles: A Complete Grammar Guide

Articles with gerunds (-ing form of the verb)

Articles are a funny thing. They’re little words, but they can have a big impact on how your writing sounds. Take the word “running,” for example. It’s a perfectly good verb, but when you use it in an article, it can change the whole tone of your piece. Suddenly, your writing sounds more active and alive.

Articles can also be used to create a sense of rhythm in your writing. For instance, if you wanted to emphasize the sound of the words “thump thump,” you could write “The drumming was so loud that it felt like the ground was shaking.” Articles can be a great way to add interest and variety to your writing. So don’t be afraid to experiment with them!

Articles in questions

Articles in question are a popular way to engage readers and get them thinking about a topic. By posing a question at the beginning of an article, writers can spark curiosity and encourage readers to keep going. What’s more, articles that begin with a question tend to be more memorable, since they stand out from the rest. Ultimately, starting an article with a question is a great way to pique readers’ interest and ensure that they keep reading until the end.

Articles with nouns that are known to the reader

Articles are one of the first things we learn in grammar school, and yet they continue to mystify many of us. Articles are words that come before nouns and signal whether the noun is specific or general. “A” and “an” are called indefinite articles because they refer to nonspecific nouns. “The” is called the definite article because it refers to a specific noun.

Many native English speakers have a hard time with articles because they are often used differently in other languages. However, with a little practice, you can master this tricky part of speech. The next time you’re struggling with an article, remember these tips: If the noun is specific, use “the.” If the noun is general, use “a” or “an.” And if you’re still unsure, just leave the article out entirely.

Articles with uncountable nouns used as singular countable nouns

The most common mistake people make with articles is using them incorrectly with uncountable nouns. Uncountable nouns are food items, like rice and cereal, or abstract concepts, like information and advice. They cannot be counted using numbers, so they are always singular. As a result, they should never be paired with a or an.

  • For example, you would say “I ate some rice for dinner,” not “I ate rice for dinner.”

The only exception to this rule is when an uncountable noun is used as a singular countable noun.

  • For example, you might say “I need rice for this recipe,” meaning that you need a specific type or quantity of rice.

Articles can be tricky, but with a little practice, you’ll be using them like a native speaker in no time.

Articles with nouns that are considered generalizations

Articles are a type of word that is used to modify a noun. There are three articles in the English language: “a,” “an,” and “the.” Articles are considered to be one of the most important parts of speech, as they help to provide information about the nouns that they modify. The choice of the article can often be the difference between making a generalization and being specific.

  • For instance, consider the following two sentences: “I read a book about dogs” and “I read the book about dogs.”

In the first sentence, the speaker is generalizing about all books about dogs, while in the second sentence, the speaker is specifically referring to one particular book. Articles are a small but important part of grammar, and understanding how to use them correctly can make a big difference in your writing.

Articles with geographical names

Articles are one of the most basic and important parts of speech in the English language. Articles are also used with geographical names. The definite article is used when the listener knows which country or city you’re talking about. For example, “I’m going to the United Kingdom.”

The indefinite article is used when the listener doesn’t know which country or city you’re talking about. For example, “I’m going to a country in Europe.” As you can see, articles are an essential part of speech and are used in many different ways. They are one of the first things you should learn when you’re learning English grammar.

Articles with organizations and institutions

Articles are one of the key parts of grammar, and they are essential for communication. They are also often used with proper nouns, such as “the United States” or “the Olympics.” In addition, articles are sometimes used with organizations and institutions, such as “the United Nations” or “the Pentagon.”

Articles are an important part of speech, and they are essential for communication. If you’re learning English, be sure to pay attention to how articles are used, as they can often be the difference between making a generalization and being specific.

brown eggs on white textile

Articles in idiomatic expressions

Why do we use articles in idiomatic expressions? It’s a quirk of our language, and it often trips up foreign speakers. But there’s a reason for it, and once you understand the rule, it’s not so difficult to remember.

Here’s the rule: when an expression uses a part of speech that would normally require an article (noun, adjective, adverb), we include the article even if the expression as a whole doesn’t make literal sense. So, for example, take the expression “a piece of cake.” You wouldn’t say “This cake is easy,” because that would imply that all of the cake is easy, not just a part of it. But by using the expression “a piece of cake,” we’re indicating that only part of the cake is easy – namely, the piece that we’re talking about.

This rule also applies to other parts of speech. For example, consider the expression “in a nutshell.” Again, this doesn’t make literal sense – how can something be in a nutshell if it’s not inside a shell? But by using the article “a,” we’re indicating that we’re talking about only part of the nuts – namely, the ones that are in a particular state or situation (in this case, being easy to understand).

So next time you come across an expression with an article in it, don’t be confused – just remember that there’s usually a reason for it. And once you know the rule, you’ll be able to use these expressions like a native speaker.

Conclusion

Articles are a small but important part of grammar, and understanding how to use them correctly can make a big difference in your writing. In this article, we’ve talked about the different ways that articles can be used in English. We’ve discussed how definite and indefinite articles are used with geographical names, organizations and institutions, idiomatic expressions, and more. If you’re learning English, be sure to pay attention to how articles are used, as they can often be the difference between making a generalization and being specific.

FAQs

What is an article?

An article is a word that helps identify a noun. There are three types of articles: definite, indefinite, and partitive.

When do I use a definite article?

A definite article is used when the noun is known to the reader or listener. For example:

  • The book that I want to read is on the shelf. (The book is known to the reader.)
  • I just saw the most beautiful sunrise. (The sunrise is known to the reader.)
  • We went to the store. (The store is known to the reader.)

When do I use an indefinite article?

An indefinite article is used when the noun is not known to the reader or listener. For example:

  • Can you help me find a book? (The book is not known to the reader)
  • We’re going to go see a movie. (The movie is not known to the reader)
  • I’d like to buy an apple. (The apple is not known to the reader)

When do I use a partitive article?

A partitive article is used when we are talking about a part of something. For example:

  • Can I have a slice of cake? (We are talking about a part of the cake.)
  • Do you want some coffee? (We are talking about a part of the coffee.)
  • I can’t eat all of this pizza! (We are talking about a part of the pizza.)

What is the difference between “a” and “an”?

The article “a” is used before words that begin with a consonant sound. The article “an” is used before words that begin with a vowel sound. For example:

  • a car an apple
  • a book an egg
  • a university an onion

Is there a rule for using articles with proper nouns?

Yes, there are a few rules. Generally, we do not use articles with proper nouns. For example:

  • Mexico City (Not “the Mexico City”)
  • Mount Everest (Not “the Mount Everest”)
  • Bill Clinton (Not “the Bill Clinton”)

However, there are a few exceptions. We use the definite article with certain proper nouns that refer to groups or organizations. For example:

  • the United Nations
  • the European Union
  • the United States

We also use definite article with certain geographical names. For example:

  • the Middle East
  • the Amazon River
  • the Gulf of Mexico

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