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Articles and Determiners
There are three articles/determiners in the English language:
The: a definite article, and a/an: both indefinite articles.
Articles are adjectives that modify nouns regarding definiteness.
“The apple” is a particular apple with a certain shape, color etc.
“An apple” can be any apple with any shape, color etc.
A common mistake in English writing is the misuse of articles a/an.
Article a precedes words that begin with a consonant, e.g., “a boy,” “a cat” or “a dog.”
Article an precedes words that begin with a vowel, e.g., “an ape,” “an egg” or “an igloo.” However, there are many exceptions to these rules where article a precedes words beginning with a vowel, and article an precedes words beginning with a consonant.
Exceptions to use of article a, i.e., when a precedes words starting with a vowel, include words starting with “eu” and “u” that begin with a “yoo” sound, such as “eulogy” and “university”. These exceptions are preceded with article a, i.e., “a eulogy” and “a university.”
Exceptions to use of article an, i.e., when an precedes words starting with a consonant, include words starting with “h” and “x,” where the “h” is not pronounced, e.g., “hour”, and the “x” is pronounced (eks sound), e.g., “x-ray”. These exceptions are preceded with article an, i.e., “an hour” and “an x-ray.
Examples of article a used correctly:
He wanted to be a professional baseball player since he was a boy.
Her father finally gave in and bought his daughter a puppy.
It takes a long time to learn how to ride a unicycle.
A local playing a ukulele is a common sight in Hawaii.
A fork is a common utensil.
Examples of article a used incorrectly:
He waited over a hour for her to get ready.
He ate only a apple for lunch.
It was quite a honor to be invited to the President’s Ball.
The doctor said that she would need a x-ray to determine if her arm was broken.
The Eskimos built a igloo to shelter themselves from the harsh winter weather to come.
Examples of article an used correctly:
An air conditioner was installed in the apartment building after years of tenant complaints.
An egg is a great source of protein.
It takes an intelligent person to become an astronaut.
The dog was able to escape the yard through an opening in the fence.
“UFO” stands for an unidentified flying object.
Examples of article an used incorrectly:
An unicorn is a fantasy, nonexistent animal.
His parents hope that he gets in to an good college.
He took his son to an baseball game to reward him for his outstanding grades.
She could not afford a new car, so she purchased an used one.
The campers did not have an can opener, so they had to use a knife.