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What Are Articles? (with Examples)The articles are the words a, an, and the.
There are two types of articles: determiners.
The is called the definite article because it tells us something is specific. A and An are called the indefinite articles because they tell us something is unspecific.
Examples of the Definite and Indefinite ArticlesHere are some examples of the articles in use:
- I fell over the chair again. (The chair is specific. It is known to the audience.)
- Can you pass me a chair? (This means an unspecific chair, i.e., any chair.)
- I loved the apple pie after the meal. (In this example, the audience knows which apple pie is being praised, e.g., the one at last night's dinner.)
- I love an apple pie after dinner. (The audience understands that the speaker likes to eat an apple pie after dinner (any apple pie will do).)
- I'm not a troublemaker. I'm the troublemaker! (This means "I'm not any old troublemaker. I'm the one you all know about.")
When Do You Use An and A?The main question regarding articles is when to use an instead of a.
An is used instead of a to make speaking easier. An is used when the first sound of the next word is a vowel sound. Note that consonants can create a vowel sounds (e.g., in the abbreviation MOT, the first sound is the vowel sound "em"), and vowels can create a consonant sound (e.g., in the "one-off deal," the first sound is the consonant sound "w"). The use of an is determined by the sound not the letter. Look at these examples:
- A house
- An hour (House and hour start with the same three letters; however, house attracts a, and hour attracts an. This is because house starts with a consonant sound, but hour starts with a vowel sound.)
- A uniform row
- An unidentified man (Uniform and unidentified start with the same three letters; however, uniform attracts a, and unidentified attracts an. This is because uniform starts with a consonant sound (yoo), but unidentified starts with a vowel sound.)
Use An before a Vowel SoundUse an (as opposed to a) when the next word starts with a vowel sound. For example:
- It was an unicorn. (Unicorn starts with a vowel but not a vowel sound. It starts with a yoo sound, which is a consonant sound. That's why it attracts a and not an.)
- It was a unicorn.
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