Uses Of Articles

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Mar 20, 2007
Toronto, Canada
Uses of Articles
Articles are used to differentiate between things or ideas – usually expressed by nouns. The speaker/writer may be referring to a specific thing or idea, or a general one.

  • We use the to refer to specific nouns, either singular or plural.
    • Please hand me the book that’s on the table.
    • Please hand me all the books that are on the tables.
  • A and an are used to refer non-specific nouns.
    • Please hand me a book; any book will do.
    • Please hand me an autobiography; any autobiography will do.

Articles should be placed just in front of the noun they’re modifying. However, if the noun is also being modified by one or more adjectives, the article should go in front of the adjective(s).

  • Please fetch me a sweater.
  • Please fetch me the brown sweater.
  • Please fetch me the fuzzy blue sweater.
An should be used before any noun – or any adjective modifying the noun – which begins with a vowel or a voiceless H.

  • He is a man.
  • He is an ugly man.
  • He is an honest man.
Articles can also be used when emphasizing a point.
  • He had a hard time with the exam.
  • He had the hardest time with the exam.
Obviously, using the definite article the makes the point very clear.