Basics on Articles


Grammar rules seem daunting initially but simple tips and tricks can help you untangle the strings of confusion. Confusion still prevails about the usage of a, an and the. Articles, as their usage suggests, signify whether the noun in a sentence is specific or unspecific. The usage of articles is determined by the context in which the noun is used, wherein it is considered an Adjective that provides information about the Noun used in the sentence. 

On a contextual level, Articles in grammar have been categorised into two variants- definite and indefinite. Indefinite articles are used when the noun in the sentence is employed in a general or unspecific sense. This type of article includes a and an, which are used in a synonymous context when referring to one. This article is also used in the context of referring singular Noun. In addition to this, the article a is placed before the words beginning with consonant sounds. Have a look at the sentences below:

  • I own a villa.

  • A cheetah can run at the speed of 200km/hr.

  • Bent was a very kind gentleman.

On a similar note, the indefinite article an has implied in the same context in which the article a is employed. However, the distinctive aspect of this article is that unlike the article a, this particular article is used prior to the Noun starting with a vowel sound (a, e, i, o, u). Further, attention must be drawn towards words which might not begin with a vowel letter but may start with a vowel sound, and vice versa. These words are exceptions, and some of these words are honest, university and many more. Have a look at the sentences below, which underlines the usage of article an:

  • Joycee sent me an invitation.

  • John wants to have an apple pie. 

  • Grace is an honest girl. 

Definite Articles includes the, which is used before singular and plural specified Nouns. The difference between the usage of a and the is that former is used when the Noun is placed in a general sense while the latter one is usually placed in relation to the specified Noun. Have a look at the sentence below:

Sentence 1: I have a pen.

Sentence 2: The pen is red in colour. 

In above sentences, the articles a and the are used in a correlated context where is the Noun in the sentence is pen, and in the first sentence, the noun is in general context whereas the second sentence, the pen is the same pen referred in sentence one. Hence, the Noun in the second sentence is used in a specific sense and so article the is used. The two sentences below highlight the usage of article the;

  • Navin went for walk in the misty evening. 

  • I used the chair given to me by Joseph. 

In English, there is another article known as Zero Article. The use of zero article is depicted in the following context:

  • Plural nouns 

  • Uncountable nouns

  • Real nouns 

In other words, the usage of zero articles is in general sense; that is it includes all things involved everywhere. For instance:

  • Reni loves Germany.

  • My coffee turned cold. 

Hence, the definite and indefinite articles are used in the English language. However, in speaking and writing the use must be quite particular. In speaking and writing, the usage of articles must be appropriate in terms that the speaker or writer must be able to distinguish between definite and indefinite articles as well as taking into account the exceptional cases and zero articles

So the next time you speak or write for IELTS, PTE and OET, ensure that the Article usages are on point. 





Shreoshi Bhattacharjee (Writer)

Sandeep Jaykumar (Editor)

Annie Arora (Picture) 




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