Articles were once classified as separate parts of speech, but today they are classified as adjectives. Like adjectives, they precede nouns and modify nouns. There are three articles in English grammar – a, an, and the. These articles are the words that determine the nouns whether they are specific or unspecific in the given context. Look at the following examples:
Example: A woman asked an elderly gentleman the way to the Covid hospital. The old man guided her. She hurried fast to the right and saw the hospital where the Covid patients were being treated in the emergency ward.
In the above sentences, articles “a, an, and the” are used before the nouns/noun phrases – woman, elderly gentleman, way, Covid hospital, old man, right, hospital, Covid patients, and emergency ward.
- The article “a” before the noun “woman” shows that we are not talking about any specific or particular woman.
- The article “an” before the noun phrase “elderly gentleman” shows that we are not talking about any specific or particular elderly gentleman.
- The article “the” before the noun phrase “Covid hospital” determines that the hospital she is asking for is specific.
- The article “the” before the noun phrase “old man” determines that the old man is the particular person who she met on the way.
- The article “the” before the noun “right” determines that she hurried fast in a specific direction.
- The article “the” before the noun “hospital” determines that it was a specific/particular hospital where the Covid patients were being treated.
- The article “the” before the noun phrase “Covid patients” determines that they were the specific patients who were suffering from Covid.
- The article “the” before the noun “emergency ward” determines that it was a specific ward where the covid patients were kept for treatment.
Types of Articles in English Grammar
In both British and American English Grammar, there are two types of articles – Definite Article and Indefinite Article. They usually come before the nouns. These articles are also known as determiners in modern English as they determine the nouns whether they are specific or unspecific – particular or unparticular. The following are the articles in English language:
There are only two indefinite articles in English grammar.
Articles “a” and “an” are always used before singular nouns. For example:
- An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or a group of words.
- A wizard lived in an old house near the woods.
- On a hot summer day, an elderly gentleman fainted on the way to his house.
- A young boy was tried in court for stealing a printer from an electronics store.
- He has to pay a dollar to download an app from the site.
- It is very difficult to get a good job.
- A band of musicians came to entertain the passengers on the deck.
- He likes to have a walk in the evening.
- We traveled in an air taxi from London.
- An error was committed at the last moment.
There is only one definite article in English grammar.
Article “the” can be used before both singular and plural nouns. For example:
- The child began to cry to see the dogs.
- Yesterday a blue line bus ran over the children who were crossing the road.
- The teacher assigned the task to the students.
- British Parliament passed the bill yesterday.
- The shoes I wore the last night were purchased from an online store.
- The White House is the official residence of the President of the USA.
- The guest did not sleep all night.
- The girl with blue eyes is my fiancée.
- I visited the British library with my teachers.
- The higher we go, the cooler we feel.
When a noun or a noun phrase is not preceded by an article in a sentence, it is called a zero article. In other words we can say that the absence of an article before the noun is called a zero article. Absence of an article clearly shows that the noun/noun phrase is indefinite. For example:
- Life is not a bed of roses.
- Science has brought a revolution into our lives.
- Nature looks beautiful in the mountains.
- Death is inevitable.
- Man is mortal.
- Breakfast is ready on the table.
- My friend invited me to Dinner.
- Football is very popular in Turkey.
- A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
- Love knows no religion and boundaries.
In the above examples life, science, nature, death, man, breakfast, dinner, football, beauty, and love are nouns but they are not followed by an article. We shall discuss in the next post why the articles are not used before these nouns/noun phrases in the above sentences.
Are articles different in British and American English?
Articles in British and American English are not different in any way. American English grammar has the same articles – a, an, and the as the British English Grammar. Spellings, usage, and pronunciation are similar in British and American English.
How to pronounce “The” in British and American English?
“The” is pronounced in the English language in two ways – “tha/thuh (ðə)” and “thee (ði)”.
“Tha/thuh (ðə)” is the light form with a short sound whereas “thee (ði)” is the strong form with a long sound.
I would like to make it very clear that there is no clear-cut rule about these two pronunciations.
However, people all over the world prefer to pronounce the word “The” as “tha/thuh (ðə)” when the word after “the” begins with a consonant sound. When the word after “the” begins with a vowel sound, people usually enunciate “thee (ði)” with a long sound.
Sometimes people want to put an emphasis on the word that comes after “The”. It doesn’t matter whether it begins with a vowel or consonant. They use only the strong form of “the” with a long sound to make it emphatic.