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Indefinite and Definite Articles

The words a, an, and the are special adjectives called articles.

Indefinite Articles—a, an

an—used before singular count nouns beginning with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) or vowel sound:

  • an apple, an elephant, an issue, an orange
a—used before singular count nouns beginning with consonants (other than a, e, i, o, u):

  • a stamp, a desk, a TV, a cup, a book
Definite Article—the

Can be used before singular and plural, count and non-count nouns

1. Indefinite Article (a, an)

Used before singular nouns that are unspecified:

  • a pencil
  • an orange
Used before number collectives and some numbers:

  • a dozen
  • a gallon
Used before a singular noun followed by a restrictive modifier:

  • a girl who was wearing a yellow hat
Used with nouns to form adverbial phrases of quantity, amount, or degree:

  • I felt a bit depressed.

2. Definite Article (the)

Used to indicate a noun that is definite or has been previously specified in the context:

  • Please close the door.
  • I like the clothes you gave me.
Used to indicate a noun that is unique:

  • Praise the Lord!
  • The Columbia River is near here.
Used to designate a natural phenomenon:

  • The nights get shorter in the summer.
  • The wind is blowing so hard.
Used to refer to a time period:

  • I was very naïve in the past.
  • This song was very popular in the 1980s.
Used to indicate all the members of a family:

  • I invited the Bakers for dinner.
  • This medicine was invented by the Smiths.

[Quiz 28.1]

Choose the correct article in each sentence.

1) Did you bring                      (a, an, the) umbrella?
2) Are you looking for                      (a, an, the) shampoo?
3) I checked                      (a, an, the) mailbox again.
4) Can I have                      (a, an, the) spoon please?
5) I was born into                      (a, an, the) poor family.
6) She will come back in                      (a, an, the) hour.
7) Have you been to                      (a, an, the) Space Needle Tower in Seattle?
8) I would love to talk to one of                      (a, an, the) managers.
9) What                      (a, an, the) amazing view!
10) The helicopter landed on                      (a, an, the) roof of a building.

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