Last Updated : 27 Dec 2018

THE INDEFINITE ARTICLE

Definition:
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)
Definition :
‘A’ is used before words beginning with a consonant sound.

e.g.

a usuala studenta doctora hotel
The Indefinite Article (An)
Definition :
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.

e.g.

an houran elephantan actoran 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.

e.g.

a Europea uniforma uniona unique
a unitariana uniteda universitya usual
a useful thinga yeara one-eyed gianta one-dollar note

2. Sometimes, ‘an’ is found before words beginning with the letter ‘h’.

Silent ‘h’ : ‘an’ is used before these words :

e.g.

an houran honouran heiran heirloom
an hourlyan honorariuman honestyan honorary

But this paractice is going out. If ‘h’ is pronouncec, ‘a’ is used:

e.g.

a hotela housea horsea human being

3. We use AN before abbreviations that begin with vowel sound.

e.g.

an M.A.,an M.Sc.,an M.B.B.S.,an M.L.A.
an N.C.C Officeran M.Com.,an M.C.Aan M.B.A.,

4. ‘a’ or ‘an’ must be used before a singular noun standing for things that can be counted.

e.g.

England is a countryLondon is a city
Rice is a cerealA dog is an animal

5. ‘a’ or ‘an’ must be used before the names of professions.

e.g.

His father is a doctor
She is an engineer

6. Words like hero, genius, fool, thief and liar take the indefinite article.

e.g.

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

e.g.

Such a thingSuch a person
Such an honourSuch an interesting story

8. The following word has indefinite article. so + adjective + a/an + noun

e.g.

So interesting a personSo nice an opportunity

9. ‘Few’ and ‘Little’ are negative meaning. ‘A few’ and ‘a little’ are positive and mean 'some'

e.g.

He has little knowledge of this subjectI have a little money on me
He has few friendsI have a few books on this subject

10. In its original numerical sense of one; as,

e.g.

Not a word was saidTwelve inches make a foot
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bushI have a book

11. A, an = one thing or person.

e.g.

Sara works in a bankCan I ask a question?
I have not got a carThere’s a woman at the bus stop

12. We use a/an when we say what a thing or a person is.

e.g.

The sun is a starFootball is a game
A mouse is an animal. It’s a small animalHe is a very jolly person

13. We use a/an for jobs, etc.

e.g.

I am a dentistHe is a teacher
She is a studentAre you an engineer?

 

Note : The indefinite articles are not used before plural nouns, proper nouns, abstract nouns, uncountable and material nouns.

e.g.

A dog is a faithful animal Dogs are faithful animals

 

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