Indefinite article

Definition: The indefinite article is just the opposite of the definite article. In English, the indefinite articles are "a, an, some, any." They are "indefinite" because they do not refer to a particular thing as "the" does, but simply refer to an object or person in a non-specific way, that is, we do not specify exactly to which person or object we are referring to.

For example:

  • A white house on a green hill.
  • A cat ate the sardine
    * We are not specifying which cat ate the sardine, it could have been any cat.

Notes:

It is normal to use the indefinite article when we mention someone or something for the first time in our conversation or text.

For example:

  • I've finally got a good job.
  • We bought a new computer and it was cheap.
  • Would you like a drink?

"A" and "an" are also used to refer to a particular member of a group or class.

For example:

  • She is an English teacher.
  • He wants to be a dancer.
  • John is an Englishman.
  • Sherlock Holmes was playing a violin when the visitor arrived.
  • I was born on a Thursday.

We also use the indefinite article to talk about price / weight, speed.

For example:

  • This car does 240 km an hour.
  • It is 10 euros a kilo.

Certain numbers in English require the presence of an indefinite article.

For example:

  • A hundred, a thousand, a million, etc...

With singular nouns, after the words "what" and "such"

For example:

  • What a day!
  • What a shame!
  • She's such a beautiful girl.

Meaning "one", referring to a single object or person

For example:

  • I'd like an orange and two lemons please.
  • The burglar took a diamond necklace and a valuable painting.

The choice between "a" and "an"
Depends on the initial sound of the adjective that immediately follows the article:

Use "a" with nouns starting with a consonant. On the other hand, we use "an" before nouns starting with a vowel.

For example:

  • an umbrella
  • a table
  • an elephant
  • a book

NOTE: If the next word begins with a consonant sound when we say it then we use a. If the next word begins with a vowel sound when we say it then we use an.

For example:

  • We say "university" with a "y" sound at the beginning as though it were spelt "youniversity".
    => a university
  • We say "hour" with a silent h as though it were spelt "our".
    => an hour



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