ARTICLES – A / An / The / (No article)

Articles combine to a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. We have 4 articles in the English language: a, an, the, (no article)

  • The definite article is “the”
  • The indefinite articles are “a” and “an”

The article which we use depends on the noun. We have two kinds of nouns: countable and uncountable.

Countable nouns – These are nouns that can be counted. We have two kinds of countable nouns: singular and plural.

  • Singular – one noun (one employee, a file, an umbrella, one day, a building, an office)
  • Plural – multiple nouns (two employees, many files, several umbrellas, five days, many buildings, multiple offices)

Uncountable nouns – These are nouns that cannot be counted. One example is the word information. It is not possible to say “one information, two informations.” It cannot be counted with numbers, it can never have a plural “s,” and it can never have an article “a” or “an.” Here is a list of more uncountable noun examples:

  • advertising, advice, business, cash, content, data, economics, education, employment, equipment, food, grammar, help, intelligence, knowledge, literature, management, motivation, news, production, progress, research, safety, software, time, transportation, wealth, work

The indefinite article a or an:
The article a / an is used when we don’t specify the things or people we are talking about:

  • I met a friend. >>> You don’t have information on which friend I met.
  • I work in a factory in New York. >>> You don’t know which factory I work in.
  • I borrowed a pencil from a passenger sitting next to me. >>> The pencil and passenger are not important.

The indefinite article a is used before a consonant sound:

  • a dog.
  • a pilot
  • a teacher.
  • a university**

The indefinite article an is used before a vowel sound:

  • an engineer.
  • an elephant.
  • an athlete
  • an hour**

– Although ‘university’ starts with the vowel ‘u’, it is not pronounced as such. It is pronounced as a consonant sound “you.”
– It is the same with ‘hour’, which starts with the consonant ‘h’, but it is pronounced as a vowel sound “our.”
The definite article the:
It’s used when the speaker talks about a specific object that both the person speaking and the listener know.

  • The car over there is fast. >>> We can both see the car or we both know which car I am talking about.
  • The president of the United States is giving a speech tonight. >>> There is only one President of the United States.

When we speak of something or someone for the first time we use a or an, the next time we repeat that object we use the definite article the.

  • I live in a house (first time). The house is quite old and has four bedrooms (second time).
  • I ate in a Chinese restaurant (first time). The restaurant was very good (second time).

No article:
1. Do not use an article with countries, states, counties or provinces, lakes and mountains except when the country is a collection of states such as “The United States”.

  • He lives in Madona near Mount Gaiziņš.
  • They live in Daugavpils.
  • We climbed Mount Everest.
  • I have been to Italy before.
  • Did you go swimming in Lake Lubans?

2. We do not normally use an article with plurals and uncountable nouns when we use general statements:

  • He writes books.
  • She likes candy.
  • Do you like jazz music?
  • She ate bread with butter in the morning.
  • I own multiple Lamborghinis, Maseratis, and Ferraris.

These are general rules of when to use articles based on noun:

Countable Noun (Singular)

  • First time: A / An
  • Second time or more: The
  • I bought a new TV (first). The TV is a Samsung (second).

Countable Nouns (Plural)

  • First time: (no article)
  • Second time or more: The
  • We were watching planes fly over Riga (first). The planes were loud (second).

Uncountable Noun

  • First time: (no article)
  • Second time or more: The
  • They made a lot of money (first). However, the money they made was dirty (second).