What are articles?
Kinds of Articles:
There are two kinds of Articles—
(i) Indefinite Article—A or An
(ii) Definite Article—The
The Indefinite Article (A/An) shows indefiniteness and Definite Article (The) shows definiteness. Articles (A, an, the) are used before Nouns under some rules. When a Singular Countable Noun is used for the first time, Article A or An is used before it. But when a Countable Noun, whether Singular or plural, is used for a definite thing, or refers to a thing or person that has already been referred to earlier, Article “the” is used before it.
Thus when a Singular Countable Noun is used for the first time, Article a or an is used before it, but when the same noun is repeated in the same sentence or in the subsequent sentences, Article “The” is used before it because then it becomes a definite thing already referred to earlier. As—
- I have a book. The book is very informative.
- I have a book, though the book is not very informative.
- There was a house. The house was very large.
- There was a house and the house was very large. Singular Indefinite Noun A or An Singular/Plural Definite Noun The
Form of Indefinite Articles:
Indefinite Article has two forms—A and An. Which one of these two forms will be used before a certain Noun depends upon the spellings, sound or pronunciation of the Noun under reference. The following are its rules—
(i) Article A is used before Nouns of which the spellings begin with a consonant. As— A boy, a table, a house, a book.
(ii) Article A is also used before words which begin with a vowel but are pronounced as with a consonant. As— A European, a unique chance, a one-rupee note, a usual sight, a universal truth. Such other words are—University, utensil, uniform, union, unity, unit, united, Unitarian, useful, one.
Note—you will see that all these words begin with the sound of y or w (which are consonants) and not with the sound of any vowel.
(iii) Article “An”is used before those words which begin with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u). As— An enemy, an ox, an inkpot, an ass.
(iv) Article “An” is also used before those words which begin with silent / mute h. As— an hour, an honourable man, an honest person. Such other words are—heir, heiress, heirloom, honest, honesty, honorarium, honorary, honour, honourable, hour, hourly.
Note—Earlier humble, humility, hotel, hostel, hospital were also supposed to begin with silent h, and article “an” was used before them. But now these words are pronounced with the consonant sound of h, and therefore article a is used before them.
(v) Some Abbreviations are there which are pronounced with a Vowel sound and therefore article “an” is used before them. As— an M. A.; an M. P.; an M. L. A.; an F. I. R; an S. D. O.; an H. M. T.; an R. T. O. etc.
Note—If the above noted Abbreviations are used in their full form, they take article a. As— A Member of Parliament (an M. P.) A Master of Arts (an M. A.)
(i) Use of Indefinite Article—‘A’/ ‘An’
The following are the rules of correct use of Indefinite Article A or An :—
Rule 1—Singular Countable Noun When a Singular Countable Noun is used for the first time, Article A or An is used before it. As—
- I have a book.
- He is a boy.
- There is an eagle.
- Delhi is a city.
Rule 2—When a Singular Countable Noun represents a whole class, Article A, or An is used before it. As—
- A cow has horns. (i.e., All cows have horns.)
- An eagle flies very high. (i.e., All eagles fly very high.)
- A dog is a faithful animal. 4. A rose smells very sweet.
Rule 3—Article A or An is used before a Noun Complement. As—
- He is a lawyer.
- He became a great sportsman.
- She is an expert in this field.
- You are a good companion.
Rule 4—a/an + Adjective/Adverb + Noun If an Adjective /Adverb comes before a Noun, Article A or A n is used before the Adjective / Adverb, and its form is determined by the nearest word. As—
- She is a beautiful girl.
- He is an honest man.
- He is a very honest man.
- This is an old rare book.
Rule 5—a/an + more than one Noun
(a) When more than one Noun or Adjective points to one Person or Thing only, Article A or An is used before the first word only, and its form is also determined by the same first word.
(b) But if they point to different Persons or Things, Article A or An is used before each word, and its form is determined by each word separately. As—
- He gave me a red and blue pencil. (Only one pencil)
- He gave me a red and a blue pencil. (Two pencils)
- Here is an ugly and foolish man. (One person)
- Here is an ugly and a foolish man. (Two persons)
Rule 6—Such + a/an When such is used with a Countable Noun, Article A or An is used after such.
As— 1. I have never seen such a beautiful picture. (not a such beautiful)
- Such a thing has never happened before.
- It was such a fine show.
- He gave us such a pleasant surprise.
Rule 7—So + Adjective + a/an + Noun When so comes before an Adjective, Article A or An is used between the Noun and Adjective. As—
- I have never seen so beautiful a picture. (not a so beautiful picture)
- It was so fine a show.
- He gave us so pleasant a surprise.
- I have never read so interesting a novel.
Rule 8—Exclamations Article A or An is used before a Singular Countable Noun in Exclamatory sentences also. As—
- What a hot day !
- What a cruel act !
- What a pretty child !
- What a good chance !
Rule 9—Numerical expressions Article A or An is used before some Numerical Expressions also. The more common of such expressions are— a couple, a dozen, a score, a hundred, a thousand, a million, a lot of, a great many of, etc. As—
- A couple of people were there.
- He gave me a thousand rupees.
- A great many visitors had turned up.
- A score of houses had been damaged.
Rule 10—Expressions of price, speed, ratio, etc. Article A or An is also used with expressions of price, speed, ratio, etc. As—
- The train is running at ninety kilometres an hour.
- Bananas are available at ten rupees a dozen.
- Sugar sells at ten rupees a kilogram.
- Colour and water are mixed at a ratio of one to five.
- Take this medicine three times a day.
Rule 11—a/an + Mr. /Mrs./Miss + Surname If we know only the surname of a person, and know nothing more, we use Article A or An before the surname. As—
- A Mr. Sharma came in the morning.
- I met a Mrs. Peters in the train.
- A Miss Renick is a regular visitor here.
- A Ms. Puri is waiting for you.
Rule 12—A few/a little we should use a few for a small number, and a little for small quantity.
As— 1. Here is a little milk.
- Here are a few pencils.
- He is a little tired.
- There is a little time left.
Rule 13—a/an with some phrases Article A or An is also used before some typical expressions. The more common of them are— to make a noise, to take a fancy to, to have a headache/a pain, to take a liking to, to have a cold, to have a mind, to have an eye to, to make a fire, to be in a hurry, to be in a temper, to have a taste for.
Article The is used under the following Rules and conditions—
Rule 1—Definite Person or Thing As has been explained above at the beginning of this Chapter, Article The is used before a definitely specified person or thing. In other words, the is used before a person or a thing which has already been referred to earlier, or which has been specified in some other way. As—
- This is the house in which my friend lives. (Here a house cannot be used because the house has been specified as the one where my friend lives.)
- The place where I was born is far away from here.
- This is the book I purchased yesterday.
- He is the gentleman whom I introduced to you last year.
Rule 2—Before all those Common Nouns which are only one or believed to be only one, but which are not Proper Nouns. As—
- The earth is round.
- The sky is blue.
- The sun has risen.
- The moon shines.
Rule 3—Before all those Singular Nouns which represent their whole class.
As— 1. The cow is a gentle animal.
- The rose is a sweet smelling flower.
- The apple is good for children.
- The horse lives on grass.
Note—But Article the is not used before Man, Woman, or Mankind even if they may represent the whole class. As— Man is a social animal. (Not The man) Woman is man’s partner. (Not The woman)
Rule 4—Before the names of mountains, rivers, oceans, lakes, bays, islands article The is used. As—
- The Ganges is a holy river.
- The Himalayas are the highest mountains.
- The Red Sea is a small sea.
- The British Isles are in Europe. Note—But article The is not used before a single specified Peak or Hill. As— Mount Everest (The will not be used.) Mount Abu
Rule 5—Article The is used before the titles of books, magazines or News-papers. As— The Ramayan, The Iliad, The Vedas, The Gulliver’s Travels.
Note—But if the author’s name is mentioned with the title of a book, article the is not used. As— Homer’s Iliad, Tulsi’s Ramcharitmanas; Shakespeare’s Tempest.
Rule 6—Before musical instruments. As— The flute, the guitar, the orchestra.
Rule 7—Before Superlative Adjective/Adverb. As— The highest mountain, the longest river, the best boy, the most important point, the most honourable man.
Rule 8—Before that Proper Noun which carries its qualifying adjective before it. As— The great Caesar, the immortal Shakespeare, the gentle-hearted Lamb, the brave Rana Pratap, the late Mrs. Indira Gandhi.
Rule 9—Before the Common Noun which expresses the sense of Abstract Noun. As—
- The patriot in him did not let him yield.
- The warrior in him kept his morale high.
- The father in him came to his support at last.
Rule 10—Before the Adjective which is used as Collective Noun. As—
- We should help the poor.
- The meek are blessed.
- The noble are always respected.
Rule 11—With Double Comparative Adverb. As—
- The more he gets, the more he desires. (Remember that the Article the is used before each Adverb separately.) 2. The more, the merrier.
- The harder he works, the better returns he will get.
Rule 12—Article the is also used before those Proper Nouns which stand for some Nation or People.
As— 1. The English are very hard working.
- The French are very fashionable.
- The German are heroic people.
Note—If Article the is not used before such countries or nations, they would mean the Language of those countries or nations. Thus English means English Language, and The English means English People.
Rule 13—Article the is also used before a noun to give it the force of the Superlative. As—
- He is the scholar of the day.
- He is the historian on this period.
Rule 14—Before Ordinal Number the. As— The first, the Fifth, the fourth, the 4th, the 8th, the 3rd, the 2nd, the 15th of April/the fifteenth of April, George the Fifth, Henry the 8th.
Note—But if these Ordinal Numbers are written in Roman figures Article the is not used. I, II, III, IV, V, IX, etc. are in Roman figures. As— V Chapter, Canto XII, George V, Henry VIII.
Rule 15—Before Professions. As—
- He has joined the Bar.
- He has gone to the navy.
- I am interested in the teaching profession.
- He is a member of the Bench.
Rule 16—Before Common Nouns used as appositions to Proper Nouns. As— Delhi, the capital of India; Nehru, the great patriot; Rana Pratap, the great warrior.
(III) Omission of Articles:
No Articles are used in the following cases—
Rule 1—Before Plural Noun Normally no Articles are used before Plural Nouns. As—
- Birds fly.
- Cows give milk.
- I love books.
Note—But if the Plural Noun points to some specific or special thing, Article The is used. As—
- The birds of Africa are large in size.
- The cows of Haryana give much milk.
Rule 2—Before a Proper Noun, As—
- Ram is coming.
- Mohan loves his sister.
Rule 3—Before an Abstract Noun, As—
- Love is blind.
- Wisdom comes with age.
- This is real beauty.
Rule 4—Before a Material Noun, As—
- Gold is costly.
- Silver is white.
- Cotton grows in our country.
- Water is life. (Gold, silver, iron, glass, wood, stone, paper, wine, coffee, tea, etc. are called Material Noun) Note—All the Nouns mentioned under Rules No. 2, 3 and 4 above are called Uncountable Nouns. Normally, as has been explained above, no Article is used before them. But if these nouns are used as Countable Nouns, Article the is used before them. If these nouns are followed by some Prepositional Phrase (with in or of), they become Countable Nouns. In such cases Article The is used before them. As—
- Kalidas is the Shakespeare of India.
- The beauty of Kashmir is remarkable.
- The gold of Kollar fields is not of high quality.
- The milk in the cup has turned sour.
- The wisdom of Solomon was known far and wide.
Rule 5—No Article is used before Collective Nouns. As—
- Society will not permit it.
- Parliament is in session.
- Jury has given its verdict.
- Army is on the move.
Rule 6—Normally no Article is used before the names of countries or States. But Article The is used before the names of the following Countries / States— The U. S. A., The U. S. S. R., The Sudan, The Netherlands, The Punjab, The Congo.
Rule 7—No Article is used before the names of Languages. As—
- I know English.
- He knows French.
Rule 8—No Article is used before the names of Diseases, Festivals, and Seasons. As—
- Cholera has broken out.
- He is coming on Christmas.
- These are winter sports.
- Let us visit Shimla in spring.
- I don’t travel in summer.
Rule 9—No Article is used before the names of Games, Sports and Meals/Breakfast. As—
- I am late for dinner.
- I take breakfast quite early.
- I shall return for supper.
- He plays cricket.
- They are fond of football.
Rule 10—No Article is used before Relations such as father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, etc. cook and nurse are also to be included in this list. As—
- Father is coming today.
- Mother is not well today.
- Cook is in the kitchen.
- Nurse is very kind.
Rule 11—School, college, church, chapel, court, work, hospital, market, bed, table, sea, prison also take no Article before them when they are used for their specific purpose or function. For example, schools / Colleges for education, church for prayer, and market for purchase or sale. When used in this sense, they take no Article. As—
- I am going to college. (for study)
- I am going to church. (for prayer or worship) But when they mean only building or place for visit or sight–seeing or any other purpose, they take appropriate Article. As—
- The college is at the next crossing.
- The church is magnificent.
- The market is closed.
Rule 12—Distributive Adjective + Noun require no Article. As—
- Each boy got a prize. (not, a/the each boy)
- I love every student. (not, a/the every student)
Rule 13—Possessive Adjective + Noun also require no Article. As—
- This is my house. (not, the/a my house)
- He is your friend. (not, a/the your friend.)
- These are our cows. (not, the our cows)
Rule 14—Proper Noun + Apostrophe’s + Noun take no Article. As—
- This is Ram’s house. (not, a Ram’s house)
- That was Mohan’s mistake. (not, a/the Mohan’s mistake)
Note—But if a Common Noun has Apostrophe s (’s), it takes an appropriate Article. As—
- This is an old man’s house. (not, old man’s house)
- That is a beggar’s cottage. (not, beggar’s cottage)
Rule 15—No/Not any + Noun need no Article. As—
- There is no boy in the class. (not, a no boy)
- She has not any chance. (not, a not any chance)
- There is not any egg. (not, not an any egg)
Rule 16—The Noun (complement) used after Elect / appoint / make / crown requires no Article. Such nouns refer to men of unique position. As—
- He was appointed principal.
- They made him chairman.
- They are going to crown him king.
- He was elected Speaker of the Assembly.
Rule 17—The noun used after kind of / sort of also takes no Article. As—
- What kind of chair do you want to buy ?
- I cannot deal with this sort of man.
Note—But if kind of / sort of refers to some special quality or talent, it would take an appropriate Article. As—
- What kind of a musician is he ?
- What sort of a problem would you discuss ?
Rule 18—Nouns coming in pairs also take no Article. As— They are wife and husband. Other such pairs are— Father and mother; brother and sister; father and son; from door to door; from house to house; face to face; hand to hand; from man to man; from village to village, etc.
Rule 19—Some popular Phrases, Idiomatic expressions, places and things also take no Article before the Noun in them. They are—
- to go to school, college, court, church, market, bed, home, hospital, prison.
- by road, by train, by air, by sea, by ship/steamer, by train, by bus, by car.
- at home, at church, at school, at college, at office, at dawn, at night, at noon, all day, all night, at fault, at present, at all, at will.
- for sale, for fear, for favour, for leave, for mercy.
- in bed, in debt, in fact, in trouble, in hand, at hand, in favour of, in front of, in opposition to, in earnest.
- under consideration, under trial, under ground, under pressure.
- on demand, on trial, on sale, on foot, on earth, on behalf of.
- to catch fire, to send word, to give ear, to set sail, to lose heart, to set foot, to take offence.
(IV) Position of Articles
It is equally necessary to know the place / position in a sentence where the Article (a, an or the) should be used. The following are the Rules for it—
Rule 1—Before a Noun Normally Article (a, an or the) is used before a Noun. As— A book, an enemy, the horse Rule 2—Adjective + Noun If an Adjective comes before a noun, the Article is used before the Adjective. As— A good book, a beautiful girl, the black horse.
Rule 3—Adverb + Adjective + Noun If there is Adjective before a Noun, and also an Adverb before the Adjective, the Article is used before the Adverb. As— A very good book, an extremely beautiful girl, the most intelligent boy.
Rule 4—Many/such/what If there is use of many, such, what in a sentence, the Article is used after them. As— Many a man, such a beautiful, such a house, what a man, what a place.
Rule 5—As/how If in a sentence as / how are used before an Adjective, the Article is used after the Adjective. As— As gentle a girl as she; as brave a man as he; how good a boy; how excellent an opportunity.
Rule 6—So/too If in a sentence so / too are used before an Adjective, Article is used after the Adjective. As— So serious an attempt. So brave a man. Too clear an answer. Too far a place.
Note—Under this Rule, sometimes, Article is used before so/too, though this use is not popular.