Sunday, 2 December 2007


A, an, the or zero article

There are two types of articles. They are known as the definite and indefinite articles. The words 'a' and 'an' are the indefinite articles and 'the' is the definite article. Articles are used at the beginning of noun phrases.

a or an?
If the noun begins with a vowel sound then the indefinite article to use is 'an', e.g. an apple. However if the noun begins with a consonant sound, then the indefinite article to use is 'a', e.g. a cat.

The zero article
In some cases nouns such as plural and uncountable nouns do not have articles before them. This lack of an article is sometimes known as the zero article, e.g. I've got two cats.

There are quite a few rules connected with the use of articles. Here is a basic one to start with

We use the indefinite article – 'a' and 'an'
to refer to something or someone for the first time in a conversation:

She's has two children – a boy and a girl.
I hear you've just bought a new car.
She bought a lovely bag yesterday.

We use the definite article – 'the'

to refer to something or someone that both speakers in a conversation know about or that has been referred to before:

boy is 7 and the girl 4.
I'm going to use the new one for driving my family around and I'm keeping my old one just for myself.
The bag was red leather and really lovely.

There are a lot of rules about when we don't use articles. Here are four of them:

We don't use an article:

1. to talk about plural and uncountable nouns or when talking about things in general:

I'm terrified of heights
I'm into drum and bass.
I hate cheese.

2. before countries, towns, streets, languages and single mountains:

I'm from China.
I've climbed Mount Everest.
She speaks French.

3. Before some places and with some forms of transport:

I live at home with my parents.
I came here by car.
He goes to work by bus.

4. In exclamations with what + uncountable noun:

What beautiful weather!
What loud music!
What disgusting food!