In the British and American English language, there are two indefinite articles in English Grammar – A and An. They are used before the nouns or noun phrases that are unspecific and have no identity. Indefinite articles generalize the nouns or the noun phrases and make them unspecific.
Indefinite Articles Examples
Example 1: A crewman of a ship saw an iceberg floating near an island.
In the above sentence, indefinite articles – “A and An” are used before the nouns or the noun phrases – “crewman, ship, iceberg, and island.” The identity of these nouns (i.e. crewman, ship, iceberg, island) is not clearly defined. We do not know which crewman, ship, iceberg, and island we are talking about. Here we are simply talking about these nouns or noun phrases in general. Hence, they are not specific or particular in any way.
Example 2: A lion is a dangerous animal.
In the above sentence, the indefinite article – “A” is used before the noun or the noun phrase – “lion and dangerous animal.” The use of the article “A” before these nouns shows that the nouns “lion and animal” are not particular and specific. A lion means – Any lion/every lion but not a particular lion. Here we are talking about a lion in general.
What is the Meaning of “A and An”?
Articles “A and An” have no literal meaning in the English language. They are used before nouns/noun phrases only to mark that the noun is general, unspecific, and a single living or non-living unit. For example:
- There is a visitor for you.
- She was driving at 40 miles an hour.
- My neighbor died on a Friday.
- A word is a meaningful group of letters.
- Once there was a king. He was very wise and honest.
- I ate an apple for breakfast.
- The maid bought a knife from a shop.
- They have gone for an evening walk.
- A cow is a domestic animal.
- Ramson is a tall and handsome boy.
- Agamemnon is an interesting play.
- Thirty-five miles is a big distance.
- An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
- He thinks he is a Hitler.
- Only a rich man can afford it.
How to pronounce “A”?
Article “A” is pronounced in the English language in two ways – “ɘ” and “ei”.
“ɘ” is the light form with a short sound whereas “ei” is the strong form with a long sound.
However, people all over the world pronounce the word “A” as “ɘ” when they are quick in speech. People usually pronounce “A” as “ei” when they are slower in speech and pause for special emphasis. I would like to make it very clear that there is no clear-cut rule about these two pronunciations. Any person can pronounce it in two ways, either as “ɘ” or as “ei”.
It entirely depends on how slow and quick you are speaking and where you pause for an emphasis.
How to pronounce “An”?
Article “An” is also pronounced in two ways – “ɘn” and “æn”.
“ɘn” is the weak/light form with a short sound whereas “æn” is the strong form with a long sound.
However, people all over the world enunciate the article “An” as “ɘn” when they talk to someone in a flow. People usually pronounce “An” as “æn” when they are slower in speech and pause for special emphasis. I would like to make it very clear that there is no clear-cut rule about these two pronunciations. You can pronounce it both ways, either as “ɘn” or as “æn”.
Why are “A and An” called indefinite articles?
The dictionary meaning of “Indefinite” is “not clearly defined or not precise”. Articles “A and An” are called indefinite articles as they come before the nouns or noun phrases that are not clearly defined. In other words, we can say, they are not precise and specific. They have no specific identity. Rather they are used in general. For example:
Example 1: A guest came to an inn and asked to stay for a night.
Example 2: A magician put an egg in a bowl and a chick came out the next moment.
In the above examples, the indefinite articles “A and An” are used before the nouns or the noun phrases – guest, inn, night, magician, egg, and chick. All these nouns are not clearly defined and have no specific identity in the above sentences. We do not know who the guest is, which inn, and which night we are talking about. There is no specific information about their identity. Similarly, in the second example, the identity of magician, egg, and chick is not precise and specific. These nouns are defined in general. That’s why articles “A and An” are called Indefinite Articles.
Indefinite Article Exercises with Answers
1. Copper is ______________ very useful metal.
2. Happy Island is ______________ wonderful place to live in.
3. Sunali returned after ______________ hour from Wickford.
4. My guest is not ______________ honorable man.
5. Macca is ______________ holy city in UAE.
6. ______________ able man is recognized by his actions.
7. English is ______________ universal language.
8. I am not ______________ fool to believe you.
9. Please give me ______________ one-hundred rupee note.
10. My father was killed in ______________ accident.