english grammar for teachers, definite and indefinite and no article in english language

Definite, Indefinite, and No Article In English

Grammar Explanation and Practice

What are articles?

[adrotate banner=”7″] [adrotate banner=”12″] There are 3 articles in the English language. Two indefinite – A, AN, and one definite – THE. Sometimes no article is used, referred to as 0 article.

The indefinite article: ‘a/an’

1. When we talk about something for the first time.
There was a man in the kitchen. That man was her father.
John was driving a new car. That car was a graduation present from his parents.
There is an apple on the table. That apple is my sister’s.
There was an old lady in the park. That lady was my friend’s grandmother.

2. When we talk about thing in general.
A dog is a domestic animal.
An elephant is bigger than a tiger.

In such cases we may omit the article, and make the noun in plural.
E. g.
Dogs are domestic animals.
Elephants are bigger than tigers.

3. Describing people.
[adrotate banner=”8″]  She’s a doctor.
My brother is a famous scholar.
Nick is an astronomer.

There is no difference in the meaning of the articles A, and AN. However, they are used in different ways.

USUALLY the indefinite article A is used before nouns that begin with a consonant (b, c, d, f, g, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, z, )

a bat, a cat, a duck, a feather, a job, a knot, a lamb, a man, a name, a plot, a question, a race, a station, a tear, a vow, a wardrobe, a zebra

USUALLY the indefinite article AN is used before nouns that begin with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u)

an apple, an elephant, an idea, an ocean, an umbrella


The Letter H

The indefinite article ‘an’ is used before nouns beginning with “silent h” (not pronounced)
e.g. an hour, an honour, an heir

But we use the indefinite article ‘a’ before nouns beginning with ‘h’, which is not silent (it is pronounced)
e.g. a house, a horse, a hotel , a husband, a historian

The Letter Y

According to this source the letter Y is seen as both a consonant (like m, n, p etc.), and a vowel (like a, e, i). When acting as a consonant, we use the indefinite article “a”.
e.g. a year, a young man, a yoga class, a yacht, a yard

EU and U

We use the indefinite article ‘a’ before words beginning with ‘eu’ and ‘u’ when they sound like ‘you’,
e.g. a European capital, a university, a unit, a unicorn

BUT  ‘an umbrella’, ‘an understanding’, ‘an uncle’, (the sound here is not ”YOU”)

The definite article: ‘the’

1. When we talk about something that we know.
He is the man I was telling you about.
That’s the dress I was going to buy.

2. In front of nationalities to indicate ‘all the people’.
e.g. the Japanese, the Finnish, the Portuguese, the Americans

3. Unique places, names, institutions, etc.
e.g. the European Union, the police, the Economist, the Parliament

The 0 article.
[adrotate banner=”9″] 1. Talking about things in general (uncountable nouns or countable nouns in plural).

Lilliana is into sky-diving.
Cats don’t really like water.
Love hurts sometimes.

2. Before names of countries, cities, places, etc.

She is from Peru.
I want to climb Mt. Fuji.

Grammar Practice
Fill in the blanks with a/an, the, or no article.

*The Answer Sheet is available for download below.

Do Octopuses Get Tangled in Knots?

Have you noticed that ……….. octopuses do not get tangled in knots?!
If you cut off ………. octopus’s tentacle (arm), it will still move about for at least ………. hour. That’s because each tentacle has its own control system that guides its movements without any command from ………. brain. In this way ………… brain does not get overworked.
The hundreds of ………. suckers along each arm can also behave independently. If ………. sucker touches an object, it will grab and suck it, by reflex.
How is it possible, then, that octopuses’ tentacles do not get attached to one another by mistake?
…………… octopus experts Benny Hochner and Frank Grasso noticed that ………..octopuses have some kind of sucker-proof coating on their own skin which could block ………… sucker’s grabbing reflex.
Apparently, it turns out that the brain does not need to know the location of each limb in order to avoid entanglements. It is left to ………. arms to avoid each other.

Article source: here

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