English Articles: A, AN, THE

English Articles: A, AN, THE

English Articles: A, AN, THE : A, an and the are called Articles. They are really Demonstrative Adjectives. They may also be called Determiners because they are used before Nouns. 

English Articles: A, AN, THE

A and an are called the Indefinite Articles. They leave the person or thing spoken of in an indefinite state. They do not refer to or define any specific person or thing:

                        A book; that is, any book

                        An ox;  that is, any ox.

The is called the Definite Article. It particularises a person or thing:

He ran after the thief. (some particular thief)

An Article is generally used before a Countable and Common Noun, Singular Number:

Her is a letter for you.

There comes an ox.

This is the book I want.

But if the Common Noun (man and woman only) in the Singular is used in a general sense, then no Article is used:

Woman is vain.

Note:    This statement is correct only in the case of a man and woman.

Man can not bear such humiliation (here man = all men)

But before other words, A means ‘every one’: ‘A cow has two horns’ means ‘Every cow has two horns’.

Position of the Article:

Rule 1: An article comes before a noun ;

He is a boy often. I saw an owl in the forest.

The Taj is a historical building.

      Rule II.  An article comes before an adjective in case it qualifies some noun;

He helped are old man.

The cow is a faithful animal.

She reached the dense forest in the dark.

Please note that the article a I an is determined by the sound of the adjective which follows it.

      Rule III. An article is placed before an adverb which comes before an adjective.

                        This is a very pretty girl.

This is a really difficult sum.

Please note that the article is sometimes placed after the adverb

She gave me quite a different reply.

It is almost the same story.

      Rule IV. Such is followed by a/an. All and Both are followed by the:

She is such a nice girl. We have never met such an idiot.

Both the brothers are wise. All the girls are smart.

Use of Indefinite Articles

Indefinite Articles are used:

(a) In numeral sense meaning one

Seven days make a week.

Not a word did he speak.

Hundred paise make a rupee.

(b) To represent a class;

A donkey is a beast of burden.

A subordinate should obey his boss.

A child cries when he is hungry.

(c) In the vague sense of something certain:

One night a thief broke into his house.

In old days there was a king in India.

An old man had four daughters.

(d) To generalise the Proper Noun:

He is a Newton, (as able as Newton)

Kalidas is a Shakespeare.

(e) In the sense of the same:

Birds of a feather (lock together.

Two of a trade seldom agree.

(f) In the sense of every:

I get a stipend of Rs. 1000 a month.

Rice costs forty rupees a kilo.

(g) In the sense of some, any or a single:

I have a regard for my uncle.

She did not speak a word in self-defence.

There is not a man here who can solve this sum.

Use of A and AN

A is used with a word having a consonant sound whether the word begins with a vowel or a consonant.

(a) Consonants with consonant sound :

A man, a book, a pen, a B.A., a yard, a year etc.                    ‘

(b) Vowels with consonant sounds like ‘w’ and ‘y’:

a one-eyed donkey, a one-way ticket a one-rupee note ; a one-legged girl. a useful book, a European a unique building, a university ;

An is used before a word beginning with a vowel sound:

(a) Vowels with vowel sound:

An eye, an elephant, an ox, an inkpot, an ear, an owl, an orange.

(b) Before words beginning with a silent ‘h’:

An hour, an heir, an honest man.

(c) Consonants with vowel sound:

An M.A., an S.D.O., an M.P.

Use of Definite Article ‘THE’

The is used :

  1.         To particularise a person or a thing, or one well-known to us or one already men­tioned:

I have lost the pen that you gave me.

Let us go to the bazaar.

The thief was taken to the police-station.

He sent me a book. The book was interesting.

  1.         When a Singular Noun represents the whole class:

The cow is a useful animal.

The fox is a cunning animal.

The lion is the king of beasts.

Note: The whole class of things can be shown in the following ways;

A camel is a beast of burden.

The camel is a beast of burden.

Camels arc beasts of burden.

English Articles: A, AN, THE

Exception. Man is mortal. Woman is fickle.

Man, woman never take an article when they are used in a general sense to denote the whole class.

  1.         We use Thewith a Proper Noun when we wish to show similarity;

Kalidas is the first-rate poet in India, like Shakespeare.

We can use The with a Material Noun when we change it into either ‘of Phrase’ or particularise it as a word or phrase or clause. The cotton of Egypt means especially cotton of Egypt.

Kalidas is the Shakespeare of Bangkok is the Venice of the East.

Gama was the Rustam of India.

Always speak the truth.

The cotton of Egypt is superior to that of Pakistan.

  1. (a) With names of seas, oceans, gulfs, rivers, groups of islands, bays, straits and canals:

The Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, the Ganges, the East Indies, the Bay of Bengal, the Panama canal, the Palk strait.

(b) With a range of mountains.

The Alps, the Vindhyas, the Himalayas.

Note: (a) ‘The’ is not used before certain individual mountains;

Mount Everest, Parasnath.

(b) ‘The’ is not used before certain individual islands:

Sicily, Ceylon, Ireland.

  1.         Before the names of sacred books, news-papers, magazines, ships and well-known Idings:

The Gita, the Tribune, the Indian Review, the Delhi (ship), the Taj.

English Articles: A, AN, THE

Note: ‘The’ is not used before the title of a book bearing the name of a person or the author; as

David Copperfield, Tom Jones, Oliver Twist

Vyasa’s Mahabharata, Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

  1.         Before the descriptive names of countries and provinces;

The Punjab, the Sindh, The U.S.A.

  1.         Before the names of unique objects:

The sun, the moon, the earth, the sky, the sea.

  1.         Before a Proper Noun when qualified by an Adjective or defining Adjective clause:

The great Akbar, the immortal Iqbal.

The Mr. Sharif whom you met in the evening is my friend.

  1.         With an Adjective to represent a class:

The rich should not look down upon the poor.

The wise should be sober.

The literates should teach the illiterates.

  1. (a) With the Superlative and in certain cases with Comparative Degree;

Dr. Iqbal was the greatest man of the world.

The longest day has the shortest night.

The tallest boy won the race.

(b) Before a comparative adjective to denote selection out of two.

She sings the better of the two.

Vibha is the taller of the two sisters.

(c) As an adverb with comparative.

The more, the merrier.

The higher you soar the cooler it is.

The more you waste, the more you suffer.

  1.        To lay emphasis:

Selfishness is the order of the day.

He is the man for the work. This is the thing I want.

  1.        Before Ordinals:

The second girl in the first row is my sister.

  1.        Before the Nationalities, Communities (People) and Political Parties:

The Hindus, the English, the Burmese, the Muslim League

  1.        He held me by the arm.       In place of a Possessive Adjective:
  1.        Before dates: I shall come back on the 13th of May.
  1.        With the cardinal points (names of directions):

The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.

English Articles: A, AN, THE

  1.        Before the Adjectives ‘Same’ and ‘Whole’’ and after the Adjectives ‘all’ and ‘both’.

This is the same pen (as) you gave me.

The whole class was absent.

All the boys are present. Both the friends are jolly.

  1.        Before an adjective to indicate an abstract idea.

I appreciate the honest, the good and the pure.

(Here the honest, the good and the pure indicate honesty, goodness and purity.)

  1.        We use a/an when a singular countable noun is mentioned at first. We use thewhen we happen to refer again to the -noun already mentioned:

I saw an old man. The old man came to me.

I gave some money to the old man.

I went to a photographer. The photographer was young.

  1. When someone/something particular is meant.

The teacher wrote to me a chit.

The baby is crying. Her mother is not at home.

I was talking to the councilor yesterday.

  1. (a) Before a public building:

The Town Hall. The Prime Minister’s House.

(b) Before some performances:

The circus, the show, the cinema, the concert.

  1.        Before the name of an aero plane or a ship:

The  Babar, the Tezgam

Study the use of the Definite Article in the following sentences:

(a) The virtuous are generally happy.

This is the book on Arithmetic. (The best)

This is the teacher in the school.

Time makes the worst enemies friends.

The day dawned.

The heat was unbearable there.

The honorable minister will speak in the public meeting today.

(b) Milk is sold by the litre.

Cloth is sold by the metre.

Eggs are sold by the dozen.

We shall fight to the last.

The old man is on the point of death.

Do not leave your friends in the lurch.

The colonial system is on the wane.

He is quite upto the mark in the class.

The number of students in the school is on the increase.

You are in the wrong.

He played the fool.

He is on the brink of ruin.

He met me in the guise of a beggar.

Death stared us in the face.

English Articles: A, AN, THE

We also say:

In the end                    all the same                  by the way

to go to the dogs          to go to the wall           in the nick of time

in the face of                 out of the question                    on the one hand

on the whole                 on the eve of etc.

Omission of Article

Article is not used before :

  1. Proper, Material and Abstract Nouns when they are used in general sense:
            Raza is the monitor of our class.

Uranium is not found in Pakistan.

Patience is a virtue.

(Proper Noun)

(Material Noun)

(Abstract Noun)

Remember :

(a) When the Uncountable Nouns (Proper, Material and Abstract Nouns) are particular­ised the is used before them:

Shahzad is the Newton of our class.

The sugar of Java is not superior to that of Pakistan.

The beauty of the garden is unique.

(b) The is used before Proper Nouns preceded by Adjectives:

The honest Kashif.

Note: The is used in case some phrase makes them particularized

The children of my neighbour are very sweet.

  1.         The Common Nouns in the plural:

Children like sweets.

  1.         The Common Nouns used in the widest sense:

Man is a social animal.

Animals have an underdeveloped brain.

  1.         A Common Noun in the Vocative case (Nominative of address):

Bring me a book from the library, boy.

  1.         A Common Noun preceded by ‘kind of, ‘sort of, ‘type of:

What kind of man is he?

What sort of girl is she?

What type of house do you live in?

  1.         Common Nouns used in pairs:

Both husband and wife are poets.

From head to foot she was dressed in white.

  1.         Nouns used as complements:

They selected him President.

He was appointed monitor.

  1.         A title, rank, status etc. used in Apposition to a Proper Noun;

Narender Modi, Prime Minister of India.

Elizabeth, Queen of England.

  1.         The names of lakes, capes, countries, continents, cities, days, months, languages etc.

English etc.

  1.        Before names of meals:

She invited me to dinner.

Let us meet over tea.


I liked the tea, she offered me.

Here tea has been specified by the use of the clause ‘she offered me’.

  1.        Before the nouns as bed, hospital, church, office, temple, school, college etc. when they are used for their primary purpose; as

She goes to office every morning.

My mother goes to temple everyday.

The injured were rushed to hospital.

My mother is still in bed

English Articles: A, AN, THE


I went to the school to see the Principal.

I go to the hospital every day to see my aunt.

Here the is used before school and hospital because they are used in a secondary sense.

  1.        In certain Verbal Phrases (Transitive Verb + Noun); as

to cast anchor               to follow suit                 to keep house

to catch fire                   to lose heart                  to give ear                    to do penance               to set foot                            to send word                 to take offence etc.

The ship has cast anchor.

Her clothes have caught fire.

Don’t lose heart, cheer up.

Give ear to what I say.

Never set foot in our house again.

  1.        In certain Prepositional Phrases; as

Mother in not at home.             I am in mental trouble.

She will return at sunset.            I have never travelled by air.

I go to school on foot.                She can do anything for money.

Note: the Omission of the Article in the following sentences :

(a) Most boys axe careless.

This is news to me.

I live in Model Town.

I am not in good health.

Parliament will reject such a bill.

(b) Don’t lose heart.

The ship set sail.

I sent him word.

Take heart and play the game.

Let us set to work now.

(c) I am at home in English.

He goes to school on foot.

We work by day and sleep by night.

He stood by me through thick and thin.

The fox could not get at the grapes, as they were out of reach.

Points to Note

  1. If two or more Adjectives refer to the same noun, the Article is placed before the first Adjective only.
  2. If two-or more Adjectives qualify different Nouns, the Article is used before each Adjective.
  3. If two or more Nouns represent the same person or thing the Article is placed before the first one only.

Now mark the difference between the meaning of the following pairs of sentences:

1.                     I have a red and white cow.

I have a red and a white cow.

(one cow)

(two cows)

2.                     The king and poet is dead.

The king and the poet is dead

(one person)

(two persons)

3.                     He is a better teacher than clerk.

He is a better teacher than a clerk.

(same person)

(different persons)

4.                     He met a smart girl and a woman.

He met a smart girl and a woman.

(both were smart)

(only the girl was smart)

5.                     He is the most intelligent boy.

He is a most intelligent boy.

(the best of all)

(one of the best)

6.                     Girls are going to school.

Girls are going to the school.

(are going to the school not.)

(necessarily that they study in it.)

Note: They are certain such Nouns which do not take the before them when they are used for the purpose they are meant for.

My brother has gone to school (to study).

Father has gone to the school (to talk to the headmaster).

He has gone to hospital (as a patient).

He has gone to the hospital (to meet his friend, who is a doctor).

He has gone to jail (as a prisoner).

He has gone to the jail (to talk to the jailor).

You go to church (to pray).

You go to bed (to sleep).

Common Errors in the Use of Articles:

Incorrect Correct
1.     Never tell lie. She is an MA.
2.     She is an M.A. The sun sets in the West.
3.     Sun sets in West. Sun sets in the West
4.     This is a news to me. This is news to me.
5.     She has headache. She has a headache.
6.     It is quarter to ten. Why are you making a noise?
7.     Why are you making noise? Why are you making a noise?
8.     Ganges is a sacred river. The Ganges is a sacred river.
9.     The both sisters are intelligent. Both the sisters are intelligent.
10.                 I buy Pakistan Times daily. I buy the Pakistan Times daily.
11.                 Sindh is drier than Punjab. Sindh is drier than the Punjab.
12.                 Camel is ship of the desert. The Camel is ship of the desert.
13.                 Cloth is sold by metre. Cloth is sold by the metre.
14.                 I held him by arm. I held him by the arm.
15.                 Lion is a king of beasts. The lion is a king of beasts.
16.                 The gold is a precious metal. Gold is a precious metal.
17.                 This radio set cost me thousand rupees. This radio set cost me a thousand rupees.
18.                 Gita is a sacred book of Hindus. The Gita is a sacred book of the Hindus.
19.                 The English is the language of English. English is the language of the English.
20.                 Himalayas are the highest mountains in world. The Himalayas are the highest mountains in the world.


Read it also:  Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda

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