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Writers' Center

Eastern Washington University

Grammar and Sentences: Articles

Tips for sentence-level editing

Indefinite Articles

Indefinite articles (a / an) are used before a noun to show that it is not specific, or in other words, they do not refer to a specific thing (noun), but a thing in general.

a / an

‘a’ = before a singular noun that begins with a consonant   arrow   I have a car.

This car in not a specific car, so 'a' comes before the noun

‘an’ = before a singular noun that begins with a vowel   arrow   I saw an airplane.

Definite Articles

Definite articles (the) come before nouns that are definite and specific.

the

‘the’ = before singular and plural nouns   arrow   I got the keys.

‘the’ = refers to a specific thing/person   arrow   The new teacher is really strict.

‘the’ = to talk about old information the listener has already heard   arrow   The movie was boring.

‘the’ = the thing/person has already been mentioned   arrow   I read a news story. (first reference with ‘a’)

                                                                                       arrow   The story was interesting. (second reference with ‘the’)

Zero Article

'Zero' article simply refers to instances when nouns are not preceeded by an article.

‘zero article’ = to talk about something in general   arrow   Students spend a lot of money on textbooks.

Practice

Click here to get practice with articles.

Content adapted from Easy Essay Revision: Grammar Cards for Self-Correction by Eman Elturki and Melissa Van De Wege.

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