What is an article?

What is an article?

  • Articles (“a,” “an,” and “the”) are determiners or noun markers that function to specify if the noun is general or specific in its reference. Often the article chosen depends on if the writer and the reader understand the reference of the noun.
  • The articles “a” and “an” are indefinite articles. They are used with a singular countable noun when the noun referred to is nonspecific or generic.
  • The article “the” is a definite article. It is used to show specific reference and can be used with both singular and plural nouns and with both countable and uncountable nouns.

Many languages do not use articles (“a,” “an,” and “the”), or if they do exist, the way they are used may be different than in English. Multilingual writers often find article usage to be one of the most difficult concepts to learn. Although there are some rules about article usage to help, there are also quite a few exceptions. Therefore, learning to use articles accurately takes a long time. To master article usage, it is necessary to do a great deal of reading, notice how articles are used in published texts, and take notes that can apply back to your own writing.

To get started, please read this blog post on The Argument for Articles.

A few important definitions to keep in mind:

  • Countable noun: The noun has both a singular and plural form. The plural is usually formed by adding an “–s” or an “–es” to the end of it.
    • one horse, two horses
    • one chair, two chairs
    • one match, two matches

    Countable nouns may also have irregular plural forms. Many of these forms come from earlier forms of English.

    • one child, two children
    • one mouse, two mice
  • Uncountable noun: The noun refers to something that cannot be counted. It does not have a plural form.
    • Information
    • Grammar
  • Proper noun: The name of a person, place, or organization and is spelled with capital letters.
    • Tim Smith
    • McDonalds

Please see this webpage for more about countable and uncountable nouns.

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