What Are Articles In English Grammar?
‘Articles’ chapter is an important component of English Grammar. It is highly useful for the students and the candidates appearing for competitive exams.
Basically, Articles in English Grammar are demonstrative adjectives used to describe nouns. They are used before Common Nouns and Phrases.
There are two types of articles in English Grammar.
- Indefinite Article: a or an
- Definite Article: the
Indefinite Article is used before non-specific singular countable nouns.
- I went to a movie. (means any movie, not a specific movie)
- I consulted a doctor. (means any doctor, not a specific doctor)
- I met an American. (means any American, not a specific American)
Definite Article is used before specific singular or plural countable nouns.
- I went to the movie which we talked about. (means a specific r movie)
- I consulted the doctor you referred to. (means a specific doctor)
- I met the American who visited us last year. (means a specific American)
Whether ‘A’ or ‘AN’?
(A is used before a constant sound and AN is used before a vowel sound)
‘A’ can be placed before:
1.The words which begin with a consonant sound:
|a box||a boy||a year||a humble man|
|a house||a woman||a pen||a history|
|a horse||a yard||a hole||a hero|
2. The words begin with a vowel in spelling but with a consonant sound:
|a unicorn (y – sound)||a university (y – sound)||a one rupee note (w – sound)|
|a user (y – sound)||a utopia (y – sound)||a one-eyed man (w – sound)|
|a union (y – sound)||a European (y – sound)||a ewe (y – sound)|
3. The abbreviations/acronyms with a consonant sound:
|a B.A. Degree||a C.B.S. mega outlet|
|a Ph.D. holder||a B to B business|
|a G.I.F.||a U.F.O. (but an Unidentified Flying Object)|
‘An’ can be placed before:
1.The words which begin with a vowel sound:
|an apple||an actor||an orange||an umbrella|
|an ass||an Indian||an idiot||an invitation|
|an ear||an enemy||an eagle||an octopus|
2. The words begin with a consonant ‘h’ but silent in pronunciation:
|an honor, an hour||an honest man||an hotel, (or a hotel)|
|an heir||an HTML document||an historical novel (‘h’ is unstressed)
or a historical novel
|an HB pencil||an honorary degree|
3. The consonants when used in acronyms with a vowel sound: (F, X, L, M, N, R, S, X)
|an MLA, an NGO||an FBI Agent||an XLRI student|
|an RMP doctor, an SI||an LIC agent||an NBC television show|
Use of Indefinite Article:
It is used
1.In the sense of one:
- I bought a book.
- He came with an umbrella.
- She gave me a flower.
2. In the sense of a certain:
- A Mr. Reddy called you. (a certain person named Mr. Reddy)
- I met an Adarsh at the Railway Station.
3. Before a profession, post, nationality or religion etc.,
- a doctor
- a lawyer
- an Indian
- a Hindu etc.,
4. To represent a class:
- A cow is a useful animal. ( a cow = all cows)
- A lion is a ferocious animal. ( a lion = all lions)
5. To make a common noun of a proper noun:
- He is a Bruce-Lee in the fighting.
- Here came a Michael Jackson to participate in the dance.
- He is a Valmiki.
6. To indicate price, speed etc., and in numerical expressions:
- They drove the car a hundred kilometers an hour.
- She bought the banana at seventy rupees a dozen.
- I saw him a couple of minutes ago.
- He made a lot of mistakes.
7. Before a noun which has more than one adjective:
- He bought a black and white shirt. (one shirt)
- Mayabazar is an old and famous movie.
Note: He bought a black and a white shirt. (two shirts)
8. Before adjectives and adverbs:
- Ashoka is a great king.
- He is a very hard worker.
- Ramana is an honest businessman.
9. Before the verb, if used as a noun:
- They go for a walk every day.
- The child is having a bath.
10. Before a few health conditions or illnesses like aches, pains, growths, and attacks:
- a cold
- a heart attack
- a stroke
- an ulcer
- a wart / tumor / growth / etc.
- a sore throat / sore back/ sore foot / etc.
- a headache / toothache / backache / etc.
11. In exclamations:
- What a pity!
- What a clever idea!
- What an excellent chance!
12. In the expressions like a few and a little meaning some:
- There are only a few seats available.
- We have a little time to finish this work.
- I have a few friends to guide me.
13. After some prepositions especially as, for, on, and at:
- You have to submit it as a rule.
- It is only for a change.
- It happened on a large scale.
14 In some phrases:
|Many a||In a low voice||Take a vacation||To pay somebody a visit|
|What a||In a whisper||As a matter of fact||To take an interest in|
|Such a||In a word||To be in a hurry||To have a good time|
|Many a doctor||Play a joke||To be at a loss||To have a slight fever|
Use Of Definite Article:
It is used
1.To indicate a person or thing already referred to:
- I met the teacher who taught me in my 7th standard.
- I am reading the mail sent by you.
- The pen in your hand is mine.
- Do you know the girl playing in the ground?
2. To indicate a class with nouns in the singular:
- The cow is a useful animal ( or we may say cows are useful animals)
- The monkey is a mischievous animal.
- The earthworm is helpful to the farmers.
But: We should not use ‘the’ article before man and woman when used in the wide sense.
- X Man is a social animal.
- X Woman is man’s best companion.
3. Before the adjective to indicate a class:
- The rich are becoming richer. (rich people)
- The blind should not be laughed at. (blind people)
- The poor suffer a lot. (poor people)
4. As an adverb with comparatives:
- The more you eat the less you digest.
- The higher you go the cooler you feel.
- The more they get the more they want.
5. Before adjectives in the comparative degree when comparing only two things:
- He is the more talented of the two brothers.
- Lavanya is the taller of the two sisters.
6. Before superlative degree:
- She is the cleverest girl in the class.
- Amitab Bachan is the most popular actor.
7. Before the professions:
- She entered the teaching field by chance.
- My friend is interested in the medical profession.
- He would like to join the Army.
- I am going to register as an advocate in the Bar Council.
8. Before races, political parties, historical events:
- the Mongoloids
- the Jews
- the Renaissance
- the Quit India Movement
- the Bharatiya Janata Party
- the Communist Party of India
- the Indian National Congress
9. Before ordinal numbers:
- the first chapter
- the second day
- the third place
- the last chance etc.,
10. Before the names of holy and well-known books:
- the Ramayana
- the Bible
- the Quran
- the Vedas
- the Puranas
- the Bhagavad Gita etc.,
But ‘the’ should not be used if the author’s name is mentioned
- X Homer’s Iliad,
- X Valmiki’s Ramayana
- X Milton’s Paradise Lost etc.,
11. Before the names of things, unique of their kind:
- the Sun
- the Moon
- the Sky
- the Earth
- the South Pole etc.,
12. Before a proper noun to make it a common noun ( In comparison)
- Kalidas is the Shakespeare of India.
- Bombay is the Manchester of India.
13. Before musical instruments:
- the flute
- the guitar
- the violin
- the xylophone etc.,
14. Before the directions like north, west, northeast, left, right, as a geographic region.
- the East
- the West
- the North
- the Northeast etc.,
Note: if the verb follows a preposition article is used:
- They decided to walk to the south.
- They located it in the north.
- Take a turn on the right.
But: If these words directly follow the verb, no article is used
- They decided to walk south.
- Turn right and go straight.
15. With Abbreviations/Acronyms:
- the USA,
- the USSR,
- the UNO,
- the IAS,
- the WHO etc.,
16. Before the names of
|trains||the Satavahana Express,|
|newspapers||the Deccan Chronicle, the Hindu|
|libraries||the British Library|
|research centres||the Textile Research Institute|
|monuments, forts, tombs||the Charminar, the Taj Mahal,, the Red Fort, the Humayun’s Tomb|
|organs of the U.N.O||The UNESCO, the UNICEF|
|hospitals||the CKM Hospital|
|cine halls||the Ram theatre|
|banks||The Bank of India|
|hotels||the Ratna Hotel|
|Museums, art galleries||the Salarjung Museum, The National Gallery of Modern Art|
17. Before the names of
|mountain ranges, hills||the Alps, the Himalayas, the Nilgiri Hills|
|canals||the Suez Canal, the Kakatiya Canal|
|rivers||the Ganges, the Sutlej, the Nile|
|seas||the Black Sea, the Arabian Sea|
|bays||the Bay of Bengal|
|gulfs||the Persian Gulf|
|deserts||the Sahara Desert|
|oceans||the Pacific Ocean|
|certain countries/territories||the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Punjab, the Philippines
But: No article before singular:
X India, X Italy, X Mexico, X Bolivia
|group of islands||the Andamans, the British Isles
But: No article before single islands
X Corfu, X Bermuda, X Sicily
|valleys||the Death Valley, the Central Valley|
|deltas||the Godavari River Delta, the Kaveri River Delta|
|forests||the Subtropical Pine Forests|
18. With certain expressions:
|to speak the truth||to read in the original||on the other hand|
|on the one hand||in the morning||in the afternoon|
|in the evening||during the night||during the day|
|the day before yesterday||the day after tomorrow||the fall/the summer|
But: In other time expressions, no article is used:
|at night||at noon||at midnight||all-day|
|all night||all month||every month||every year|
|last night||last Friday||yesterday||tomorrow|
Omission Of The Article:
No article is used:
1. Before proper nouns
- X Tagore is a great poet. X Nehru was a great leader.
- X Delhi is the Capital of India.
Note: but names in the plural form take ‘the’
- The Ambanis are famous industrialists.
- The Bachans are popular in the cine industry.
2. Before material nouns, abstract nouns and uncountable nouns used in a general sense.
- X Cotton is light. (material noun)
- X Gold is a precious metal. (material noun)
- X Patience is a great virtue. (abstract noun)
- X Honesty is the best policy. (abstract noun)
- X Water is important for all living creatures. (uncountable noun)
Note: In a particular sense the is used.
- The patience of our principal is highly appreciable.
- I can’t forget the honesty of the auto driver.
- Honest men always speak the truth.
3. Before plural nouns used to denote a class or in a general sense.
- X Cows are useful animals.
- X Books are our true friends.
- I like X flowers.
But: In a particular sense, the is used.
- The cows on this farm give more milk.
- I have read all the books the teacher suggested.
- The flowers in your garden are really beautiful.
4. Before the names of meals:
- X Lunch is served at one ‘O’ clock
- She invited me to X dinner.
Note: If there is an adjective before breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, we use indefinite article and in a specific sense we use the definite article.
- We had a heavy dinner yesterday night.
- The dinner at my friend’s house was excellent.
5. Before the names of diseases:
- He is suffering from X fever.
- He is stricken with X consumption.
But: We use the before
- the measles
- the flu
- the mumps
6. Before the names of festivals:
- X Ugadi
- X Sankranthi
- X Christmas
- X Bakrid etc.,
7. Before the names of games and sports:
- X Hockey
- X Cricket
- X Tennis
- X Chess etc.,
8. Before the names of languages and colours:
- He does not know X French.
- Blue is his favourite X colour.
Note 1: If we use ‘the’ before any language, it refers to the people speaking that language.
- French (means the French language)
- English (means the English language)
- Telugu (means the Telugu language)
- The French (means French people)
- The English (means English people)
- The Telugu (means Telugu people)
Note 2: If the word ‘language ‘is used ‘the‘ can be used:
- the English Language
- the Telugu Language
Note 3: When colours are specific, we use the:
- the blue sky,
- the red car,
- the white building etc.,
9. Before man and woman when used in the wide sense:
- X Man is a social animal.
- X Woman is man’s best companion.
But: ‘The’ is used before man and woman when used in a limited sense.
- I helped the man who helped me.
- I appreciated the woman who did a great service.
10. Before certain titles and names of things single in kind (abstract ideas):
- X Heaven
- X Hell
- X God
But: We say…
- Indira is a god,
- Shiva is a god
- the God of Israel
- the God of Hinduism
- the God of peace etc.,
11. Before the places visited for their primary purpose: college, school, temple, mosque, church, hospital, prison etc.,
- He goes to X college (to study)
- He was sent to X prison (as punishment)
- He goes to X church (to pray)
- The boy was sent to X school (to study)
Note: ‘The’ is used before these words when we refer to them as a definite place, building, or object (for the secondary purpose)
- I happened to see my friend at the school.
- I met Srinivas at the church.
- Rajitha went to the hospital to meet the doctor.
12. Before the names of relations:
- X Father has come back.
- X Uncle came to see us.
- X Cook is angry.
- X Aunt wants to see you.
- X mother
- X aunt
- X sister etc.,
13. Before the words like School, College, University etc.,
- X Geetanjali Public School
- X Osmania University
- X Chicago University etc.,
Note: But we say
- The School of Languages,
- The University of Delhi,
- The University of Chicago
14. Before predicative nouns denoting a unique position (held by one person only)
- Shyam was elected X President of the students’ union.
- Mr. Rao became X Principal of Our college.
15. Before the individual names of the following singular (specific) nouns:
|Countries or territories||India, Canada, Spain, Mexico|
|Names of states, cities, towns||Telangana, Hyderabad, Warangal|
|Names of streets||Oxford Street, Gandhi Street|
|Names of lakes and bays||Lake Superior, Bay of Bengal|
|Names of mountains||Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro|
|Names of continents||Africa, Australia, North America|
|Names of islands||Hawaii, Corfu, Bermuda, Sicily|
|Names of languages||English, Russian, Spanish, Telugu|
|Names of academic subjects||Sociology, Anthropology|
|Names of sports||Hockey, Chess, Badminton|
16. In certain phrases consisting of a verb and an object:
|to catch fire||to set sail||to end word||to lose heart|
|to give ear||to set foot||to take heart||to lose heart|
|to take place||to take breath||to leave home||to take offense|
17. In certain phrases consisting of a preposition and its object:
|all-day||all night||all month||at home||at sight|
|at night||at noon||at midnight||by train||on demand|
|by day||by night||by name||by mistake||by river|
|by land||in hand||in debt||in trouble||on horseback|
|on foot/strike/duty||at dinner||at ease||on earth||at interest|
Repetition of The Article:
Let us see how the meaning in a sentence will be changed when we repeat the article. To understand this easily, it is simplified into three points:
a. If there are two adjectives and an article is used before the first one, it indicates that there is a single person or thing.
- I presented a black and white dog on his birthday. (single dog)
- We invited the director and producer of the movie. (single person holding two different positions)
- The principal and correspondent attended the meeting. (single person holding two different positions)
b. If there are two adjectives and an article is used before the two adjectives, it indicates that there are two different persons or things.
- I presented a black and a white dog on his birthday. (two dogs)
- We invited the director and the producer of the movie. (two persons)
- The principal and the correspondent attended the meeting. (two persons)
But sometimes, articles are repeated before the nouns for emphasis even if they refer to one person.
- He was the orator and the statesman of his age.
a. When we repeat the article before two adjectives, the noun should be in the singular:
- I read the first and the second chapter.
- He knows the Chinese and the English language.
b. When we repeat the article before the first adjective, the noun should be in the plural:
- I read the first and second chapters.
- He knows the Chinese and English languages.
a. In expressing comparison, if nouns refer to the same person or thing, the article is used before the first noun only.
- She is a better doctor than writer.
- He is a better teacher than dancer.
b. If the nouns refer to different persons or things, the article is used before each noun.
- She is a better doctor than a writer. (two persons)
- He is a better teacher than a dancer. (two persons)
Practise the following worksheets:
- What is an Adjective
- Proper Adjectives
- Adjectives of Quality (Qualitative Adjectives/Descriptive Adjectives)
- Adjectives of Quantity (Quantitative Adjectives)
- Adjectives of Number (Numeral Adjectives)
- Demonstrative Adjectives
- Interrogative Adjectives
- Distributive Adjectives
- Possessive Adjectives (Pronominal)
- Emphasizing Adjectives
- Exclamatory Adjectives
- Participle Adjectives
- Relative Adjectives
- Compound Adjectives