A, AN and THE


“A” and “AN” – are indefinite articles and indicate general reference.

                          – Indefinite articles are not used with mass nouns like jewelry.

                             (wrong: A jewelry is a sound investment)
                             (right: Jewelry is a sound investment)

                          – are singular in form and cannot be used with plural noun

“THE” – is a definite article and indicates specific reference.

             – it may be used with both singular and plural nouns.

 An illustration will make your point more understandable.
The illustration he presented did not make the matter more understandable.

“A” – is used when the following noun begins with a consonant.

- a book            - a towel
- a total failure   - a screaming child
- a football player - a wicked form of punishment

“A” – is used in front of vowels when their pronunciation sounds like you.

- a European
- a unit
- a university

“AN” – is used with nouns that begin with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u).

- an apple                  - an inquiry
- an indefinite answer      - an oval-shaped table
- an invitation tournament  - an inhumane form of punishment

“AN” – is used in front of a silent h because judging only by sound.

- an hour
- an honor
- an herb


  • If the noun is modified by an adjective, the choice between a and an depends
    on the initial sound of the adjective that immediately follows the article:

    - a broken egg         - an unusual problem- a European county (sounds like 'yer-o-pi-an, begins with
    consonant "y" sound)


  • The indefinite articles are also used to indicate membership in a profession, nation, or religion.
- I am a teacher.
- Patrick is an Irishman.
- Joe is a practicing Buddhist.
  • Abstract nouns like “justice” and “independence” do not require indefinite articles.
wrong: They are looking for a justice.
right: They are looking for justice.

“THE” – is used with mass nouns for specific reference.

The jewelry was impounded by the police as evidence.

“THE” – is NOT used with non-countable nouns referring to something in a general    sense.

(no article) Coffee is a popular drink.
(no article) Japanese was his native language.
(no article) Intelligence is difficult to quantify.

“THE” – is used with non-countable nouns that are made more specific by a limiting modifying phrase or clause.

- The coffee in my cup is too hot to drink.
- The Japanese he speaks is often heard in the countryside.
- The intelligence of animals is undeniable.
"THE" - is used when noun refers to something unique.
1. The white house
2. The theory of relativity
3. The 2001 national budget
Some geographical uses of "the". Do not use the before:
- names and countries (Italy, Mexico, Bolivia) except the Netherlands and 
  the US.
- names of cities, towns or states (Seoul, Manitoba, Miami).
- names of street (Washington Blvd., Main St.).
- names of lakes and bays (Lake Erie) except with a group of lakes like 
  the Great Lakes.
- names of mountains (Mount Everest) except with ranges of mountains like
  the Rockies or unusual names like Matterhorn.
- names of continents (Europe, Australia etc...).
- names of islands (Hundred Islands, Maui, Key West) except with Island
  chains like the Aleutians, the Hebrides, or the Canary Islands.

Do use "the" before:
- names of rivers, oceans and seas (the Nile, the Pacific).
- points on the globe (the Equator, the North Pole).
- geographical areas (the Middle East, the West).
- deserts, forests, gulfs, and peninsulas (the Sahara, the Persian Gulf, 
  the Black Forest, the Iberian Peninsula)