Articles in English: The, a or an
What is an Article?
Articles are used to specify nouns. They indicate whether the noun is singular or plural (that is, if there is one or many), whether it is a specific noun or any noun of that type, and whether we are talking about a new noun or a noun that has already been introduced in the conversation.
There are two types of articles:
The only definite article in English is the word the, which also happens to be the most common article. It is used to indicate a specific noun, either one discussed before, one likely to be known to all participants, or one that is important or exceptional.
- The final boss in that video game is nearly unbeatable.
- Give him the book he wanted.
There are two indefinite articles: "a" and "an".
When deciding between using "a" and "an," the only thing to consider is the sound of the word that follows the article.
If the next word begins with a consonant sound, then use a.
If it begins with a vowel sound, then use an.
- An announcement.
- An argument.
- An iguana.
- A cat.
- A high-society event.
- A yellow banana.
Keep in mind that the next sound may actually be written as a consonant but sound like a vowel (for example, the letter “h”), and vice versa. It’s the sound that matters, not the letter.
- More examples:
- An FBI investigation.
- A human.
- An honor.
Do not use an article with countries, states, counties/provinces, lakes, or mountains. There is an exception when the country is a collection of states, such as "The United States."
- They climbed Mount Everest.
- He lives in New York.
- They are from Northern British Colombia.