Last Updated : 27 Dec 2018
THE INDEFINITE ARTICLE
The words a and an are called indefinite articles. We can use them with singular nouns to talk about any single person or thing.
Deciding which indefinite article to place in front of a word depends upon the initial sound of the word, not the first letter of the word.
When to use a; when to use an
The Indefinite Article (A)
‘A’ is used before words beginning with a consonant sound.
|a usual||a student||a doctor||a hotel|
The Indefinite Article (An)
The article ‘an’ should be placed before words that begin with a vowel sound.
The initial sound should be a, e, i, o, or u.
|an hour||an elephant||an actor||an ice-cream|
RULES for A and An
1. ‘A’ must be used before words which begin with a vowel symbol pronounced with the same sound as the ‘y’ or a ‘w’-like sound.
|a Europe||a uniform||a union||a unique|
|a unitarian||a united||a university||a usual|
|a useful thing||a year||a one-eyed giant||a one-dollar note|
2. Sometimes, ‘an’ is found before words beginning with the letter ‘h’.
Silent ‘h’ : ‘an’ is used before these words :
|an hour||an honour||an heir||an heirloom|
|an hourly||an honorarium||an honesty||an honorary|
But this paractice is going out. If ‘h’ is pronouncec, ‘a’ is used:
|a hotel||a house||a horse||a human being|
3. We use AN before abbreviations that begin with vowel sound.
|an M.A.,||an M.Sc.,||an M.B.B.S.,||an M.L.A.|
|an N.C.C Officer||an M.Com.,||an M.C.A||an M.B.A.,|
4. ‘a’ or ‘an’ must be used before a singular noun standing for things that can be counted.
|England is a country||London is a city|
|Rice is a cereal||A dog is an animal|
5. ‘a’ or ‘an’ must be used before the names of professions.
|His father is a doctor|
|She is an engineer|
6. Words like hero, genius, fool, thief and liar take the indefinite article.
|Beware fo that fellow; he is a liar|
|My friend is a genius|
7. The following word has indefinite article. Such + a/an + noun (or) Such + a/an + adjective + noun
|Such a thing||Such a person|
|Such an honour||Such an interesting story|
8. The following word has indefinite article. so + adjective + a/an + noun
|So interesting a person||So nice an opportunity|
9. ‘Few’ and ‘Little’ are negative meaning. ‘A few’ and ‘a little’ are positive and mean 'some'
|He has little knowledge of this subject||I have a little money on me|
|He has few friends||I have a few books on this subject|
10. In its original numerical sense of one; as,
|Not a word was said||Twelve inches make a foot|
|A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush||I have a book|
11. A, an = one thing or person.
|Sara works in a bank||Can I ask a question?|
|I have not got a car||There’s a woman at the bus stop|
12. We use a/an when we say what a thing or a person is.
|The sun is a star||Football is a game|
|A mouse is an animal. It’s a small animal||He is a very jolly person|
13. We use a/an for jobs, etc.
|I am a dentist||He is a teacher|
|She is a student||Are you an engineer?|
|A dog is a faithful animal ||Dogs are faithful animals|
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