What is the Definite and Indefinite Article?

What is an “Article?”

An article is a word that, when combined with a singular, countable noun, gives information about the noun.

There are two main articles: the and a/an: 

Definite Article Indefinite Article
the a

an*

 * an is used when the first letter of the noun is a vowel: a, e, i, o, or u

We use the definite and the indefinite article to tell us whether the noun is singular or plural. Whenever you see a noun, it will have an article as its companion.

Remember:

  • The definite article is It specifies one noun in particular: the apple, the boy, the monkey

  • The indefinite article is general. It could mean any noun: an apple, a boy, a monkey

How do I use Articles with Countable Nouns?

Countable nouns are the names of separate people or objects that we can count: people, objects, animals, etc.

Noun Definite Article Indefinite Article
cat ‘Put the cat outside’. ‘I saw a cat outside the shop’.
book ‘Did you read the book?’ ‘I read a book once’.
tram ‘I’m late for the tram’. ‘You’ll need to catch a tram to get there’.
girl The girl left her umbrella’. A girl has no name’.
Articles with countable nouns can, of course, be replaced by a number:
‘I will need three apples’.  
‘It costs fifty Euro’.
‘We need five volunteers’.

 

How do I use Articles with Uncountable Nouns?

Uncountable nouns are the names of things we can not count:

  • water
  • helium
  • sunshine
  • wine
  • petrol
  • cement

We also use uncountable nouns for abstract things, like concepts (war, peace) or emotions (joy, grief). See our list of Uncommon Countable Nouns for more examples.

We do not use the indefinite article (a/an) with uncountable nouns. Both plural and uncountable nouns may be used with or without the definite article.

Advertisements