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Grammar Tutorial – Articles

Articles should be easy because there are only 3 articles – the, a, an. Yet, they cause so much trouble! In this Lesson, I will identify the rules for using these three simple words.
First, remember that articles are a type of adjective and therefore modify nouns. Let me explain. When I say ‘a car’, I am referring to cars in general … no car in particular. However, when I say ‘the car’, I am referring to a particular car. Before I refer to ‘the car’ I must have told my reader which car I am referring to … your sports car, or the neighbours red car, etc.
There are two kinds of articles: definite articles and indefinite articles.
Definite Article are used with Count Nouns
The word ‘theis the only definite article. It is used to modify both singular and plural count nouns. In other words, the definite article is used to refer to a specific noun that can be counted such as: car – cars, book – books, apple – apples.)
Rule 1: Use the definite article ‘the’ to refer to one (singular) specific object or thing.
Examples:
  • The car is in the garage. 
The definite article the’ indicates a specific car is in a specific garage.
  • The dog is in the back yard. 
– The definite article ‘the indicates a specific dog and a specific yard.
Rule 2: It is optional to use the definite article ‘the to refer to more than one specific object or thing.
  • The cars are in the garages.
– The definite article ‘the’ indicates specific cars in specific garages.
  • Dogs run in the park. 
– The definite article is not required with the plural noun ’dogs’ but is required with the singular noun ‘park’.
Indefinite Articles used with Count Nouns
A ‘and ‘an’ are the only indefinite articles. They are used with nouns when no specific object is specified. The indefinite article is used to modify only singular nouns.
Rule 3: Use the indefinite articles ‘a or ‘an’ with singular count nouns.
  • Mary eats a banana every day. 
– The indefinite article ‘a’ is required because no specific banana is referenced.
  • Mary ate the last banana we had. 
The definite article ‘the’ is required because a specific banana is referenced – ‘the last banana’.
  • Mary eats an apple after school. 
The indefinite article ‘an is required because no specific apple is referenced.
The indefinite article, ‘an’, is used instead of the indefinite article ‘a’ whenever the noun that follows begins with a vowel.
  • Mary eats an apple after school. 
The indefinite article an is required because the noun ‘apple’ begins with a vowel.
No Count Nouns
Try counting sugar or salt. Where do you start and finish counting them? It’s impossible! That’s why some common nouns are called no count nouns … they cannot be counted. They are considered to be plural nouns because they are made up of countless number of pieces. Therefore they do not require an article. Words in this category include:
  • gold, silver, nickel, iron, money, sugar, flour, salt, water, oil.
Rule 4: No count nouns are considered as plurals. No article is needed (unless reference is made to a specific item.)
  • John eats fruit every day. 
No article is required with a plural noun ‘fruit ’.
  • Sugar is used in every kitchen.
No article is required because ‘sugar’ is a no count noun.
Rule 5: The definite article ‘the’ is used with no count nouns when referring to a specific item.
  • The sugar is in the cupboard. 
The definite article ‘The’ is used to refer to specific ‘sugar ’.
  • The garbage was removed from the building site. 
The definite article ‘The is used to refer to specific ‘garbage ’.
Rule 6: The article is always placed before the noun it modifies and before adjectives that modify the noun.
  • Betty brought a red apple to school. 
The indefinite article a’ comes before the adjective ‘red’ and the noun ‘apple ‘.
  • People eat the outer skin of grapes. 
The definite article ‘the’ comes before the adjective ‘outer’ and the noun ‘skin ‘.
Rule 7: In a series of sentences, the indefinite article used in the first sentence becomes a definite article in the sentences that follow, because the general object becomes a specific object.
  • I have a new book. I put the book on the kitchen table so mother would see it.
The indefinite article ‘a’ is used in the first sentence because no particular book is mentioned. In the second sentence, the definite article ‘the’ is used to indicate the particular book identified in the preceding sentence.
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Try the following activities to find out how well you understand how to use articles:
After you have watched this Lesson, go to www.sponsoravillage.ca, for the NOTES, ASSIGNMENT and ANSWER KEY on ARTICLES.
Go to GRAMMAR in the top navigation bar and go to ARTICLES – click on it.
To send any questions you may have about grammar, go to www.sponsoravillage.ca and click on ASK Dr. OTTO. I will reply to your questions as quickly as possible.