What are articles (a, an, the)?

What are articles

“Will this have ’a’ or ‘the’? No, I think it will have nothing. But now it seems incomplete.”

If you also get stuck in such a doldrum of situations, this blog is for you. In the next few minutes, we will solidify your concept of definite and indefinite articles — a, an, and the. Let’s start with the most basic question.

What are articles?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines articles as “any of a small set of words or affixes (such as a, an, and the) used with nouns to limit or give definiteness to the application”. In simpler words, articles are monosyllabic words that are used to define nouns. There are three articles —a, an, the — which are further divided into two types—

  • Definite articles (the)
  • Indefinite articles (a, an)
Definite Articles

can be used for both singular and plural nouns. It is also used to determine the superlative degree of comparison and collective nouns. 


  1. The sun sets in the west.
  2. The car is parked across the street.
  3. The blue dress was looking good on her.
  4. All the shops in her area were on strike against the state.
Indefinite Article

‘A’ and ‘an’ form indefinite articles. As the name suggests, it is used when the noun referring to is indefinite or unclear. Article ‘a’ is used with beginning singular consonants or words having the sound of a consonant. Article ‘an’ is used with singular nouns beginning with vowels, words having the sound of vowels, and words starting with the letter ‘h; being silent. However, if the noun is preceded by an adjective, a or an depend on the initial sound of the adjective. 


  1. The shopkeeper gave her a broken egg.
  2. She carried an umbrella today to the office.
  3. She is studying at a university in the States.
  4. It took us an hour to reach the airport.

Rules you should remember

#Rule 1

For a and an, the specific quantity/identity of the noun is not known. Nonetheless, it is also used to indicate one in number.


  1. He was looking for an apartment to stay in.
  2. She ate an apple.
  3. He is an unhappy man.

#Rule 2:

For the, specific quantity/identity of the noun (singular or plural) is known.


  1. The apple he ate yesterday was juicy and fresh.
  2. The apartment she lives in is near the ocean.
  3. Thank you for the gift you gave me on my birthday.

#Rule 3:

For all things in general, NO article is used with plural countable nouns or uncountable nouns used to refer to collective things.


  1. Trees are important for man’s survival.
  2. I do not drink coffee.
  3. He is not fond of ice cream

#Rule 4: 

Avoid using articles with pronouns altogether. Since pronouns are specific to a person or a group of people, we duck them completely to avoid confusion.


  1. He is a good listener.
  2. She dances really well.
  3. Together they make a good team.
Easy to understand, no? Just memorize these golden rules and you’ll never make an error in judgment as to whether to use a, an, or the in a sentence. This trivia guide to articles will serve as a go-to page to understand and aptly use articles.

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