Use of Articles – A, An, or The

Use of Articles – A, An, or The

  • A or An and The are usually called Articles. They are really Demonstrative Adjectives.
  • A or An is called the Indefinite Article, because it is used when we do not speak of any particular or definite person or thing; as,
    • I saw a boy in the bazar.
    • I found an inkpot lying in the room.
  • The is called the Definite Article, because it is used when we speak of some particular person or thing; as,
    • This is the boy whom I saw in the bazar yesterday.
    • This is the inkpot which I found lying in the room.
  • As a general rule, a Common Noun in the Singular Number must have an Article before it; as,
    • He fought like a hero.
    • I saw an elephant yesterday.
    • This is the book he gave me.


  1. A is used before —
    1. Words beginning with the sound of a consonant; as, a boy, a Woman, a cow.
    2. Such vowels as have the sound of ‘yu’; as,
      a ewe, a useful thing, a unit, a university, a European, a uniform , a utensil, a union.
    3. ‘O’when it is sounded as‘wa’; as,
      a one-rupee note, a one-eyed giant, such a one, a one-way traffic.
  2. An is used before —
    1. Words beginning with a vowel sound, or a silent ‘h ’ when the accent is not on the first syllable; as,
      an eye, an ox, an idiot, an umbrella, an army, an hour, an heir, an honest man, an honourable man,.
    2. Words beginning with ‘h ’ and not accented on the first syllable; as,
      an hotel, an historical novel. [The modem tendency is to use a before ‘hotel’ and ‘historical’.]

Use of Indefinite Article

  • The Indefinite Article is used —
    • In the sense of one; as,
      He slew seven at a [= one] blow.
      Not a [= one] word was said.
      In a [= one] day or two.
  • In the sense of a certain’, as,
    • I met a beggar who pretended to be dumb.
    • A Jackson [a certain man named Jackson] is suspected by the police.
  • In the sense of any (when an individual is meant to represent a class); as,
    • A soldier should obey his commander.
    • A horse is a useful animal.
  • To make a Common Norm of a Proper Noun; as,
    • A Daniel [=a very wise judge] came to judgement.
    • A Pitt came to save us. [A Pitt = a very wise Prime Minister.]

Use of The Definite Article

The Definite Article ‘The’ is used—

  1. When we refer to some particular person or thing; as,
    The house I have just bought is a spacious one.
    Call the boy standing outside.
  2. When a Singular Noun is used to indicate a whole class; as,
    The cow is a useful animal.
    The lion is a noble beast.
  3. As an Adverb in such sentences; as,
    The more the merrier.
    The fewer the better.
  4. Before rivers, ranges of mountains, and groups of islands, as,
    The Ganges, the Indus, the Thames.
    The Himalayas, the Alps.
    The British Isles, the Herbrides.
    NOTE: But individiual mountains do not have ‘the’ placed before them, as, Mount Everest, Mount Abu, Mount Blanc.
  5. Before oceans, gulfs and bays, as,
    The Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Red sea, the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, the Persian Gulf.
  6. Before the names of some provinces, countries, etc., as,
    The United States, the Deccan, the Karnataka, the Punjab.
    But we say—
    Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Assam, England, etc.
  7. Before the names of certain well-known books; as,
    The Bible, the Vedas, the Koran, the Ramayana.
    But we say—
    Homer’s Iliad, Valmiki’s Ramayana.
  8. Before the names of newspapers, magazines, as,
    The Times of India, the Hindustan Times, the Modem Language Review.
  9. Before the names of public buildings, institutions, associations, etc.; as
    The Taj Mahal, the National Museum, the University of London, the United Nations.
  10. Before the names of peoples (nations), families and Adjectives formed from Proper Nouns; as,
    The English language, the Turkish tobacco, the French, the Chinese, the Nehrus, the Stuarts, the Hindus, the Buddhists.
  11. Before a Common Noun, to give it the meaning of an Abstract Noun as,
    He played the fool, [Foolishness, or in a foolish manner.]
    He felt the patriot [= the patriotic spirit or feeling in his heart].
    At last the mother [= the motherly feeling] in her was thoroughly aroused. –
  12. Before Ordinals and Superlatives; as,
    The fifteenth of August; on the third occasion; the fifth time Today is the hottest day of the month.
    This is the most useful book on the subject.
    This is the least useful.
  13. Before a Proper Noun only when it is qualified by an Adjective, or by a Phrase or a Clause used as an Adjective; as,
    The immortal Shakespeare, the wise Solomon, the famous Napoleon, the great Caesar.
  14. Before an Adjective used as a Noun; as,
    The poor depend on the rich.
    The wise hate the foolish.
  15. Before Common Nouns which are names of things that are unique of their kind; as,
    The sun, the moon, the earth, the sky.
  16. As an adverb to show that two things increase in the same proportion; as,
    The more one has the more one wants.
    The more the merrier.
  17. Note the following special usages :
    The Queen of England, the Lake of Geneva, the German language.


The Article is omitted :

  1. Before Common Nouns used in the widest sense; as,
    Man is mortal.                             Woman is the ornament of the home.
  2. Before Proper Nouns; as,
    Mumbai is a big city.                   Akbar was a wise king.
    Note:  When an Article is used before a Proper Noun, it becomes a Common Noun; as,
    He is the Newton of our day [i.e., as able a scientist as Newton was].
    He is the Shakespeare of India [i.e., as great a dramatist as Shakespeare was].
    Mumbai is the London of the East [i.e., a city as great as London].
  3. Before Abstract Noun used in general sense; as,
    Honesty is the best policy.
    He loved wisdom and virtue.
    Note: When an Abstract Noun is qualified by an Adjective, Adjective Phrase, or Adjective Clause, it can take the: as,
    The bravery of the Rajputs is still known.
    The wisdom which he showed was praiseworthy.
    The virtue of this is its simplicity.
  4. Before Material Nouns; as,
    Gold is a precious metal.
    Bread is the staff of life.
    But we can say—
    The gold that I bought is not of pure quality.
    The bread that I have is not baked well. –
  5. Before titles coming before Proper Nouns; as,
    King George VI [not, The King George VI], Lord Wellington; Professor Ghosh; Saint Paul.
  6. In certain phrases, consisting of a Noun as the Object of Verb; as,
    We leave homes at 7 o’clock.
    His clothes caught fire.
    She sent word that she was coming.
    Give ear to what your teacher says.
    He lost heart very soon.
    Other common phrases are:
    To take breath, to give battle, to cast anchor, to bring word, to leave school, to leave school, to lay siege, to set foot, to set sail, to strike root, to go to school to got to hospital, to go to prison, to go by car (train, ship, plane), to go to church, to go by air (road, rail, sea) to go home. But we say —
    to go to the office, to go to the cinema/theatre.
  7. In certain phrases consisting of a preposition followed by a Noun; as, By hand, by land, by sea, by water, by river, by steamer, by rail, by bus, by aeroplane, by train, by night, by day, on foot, on sale, on horseback, on deck, at fault, at ease, in bed, in trouble, at school, at college, in jest, in turn, at tea, at dinner, at home, at daybreak, at sunrise, at noon, at sunset, at midnight, at nine o’clock, at sight, on demand, at interest, by name, underground, above ground, on earth.


Compare the two sentences—

  1. (a)He has a black and white horse, b. He has a black and a white horse.
    The first sentence means that he has only one horse which is partly black and partly white.
    The second sentence means that he has two horses, one black and the other white.
  2. (a) The Secretary and Treasurer was present there.
    (b)The Secretary and the Treasurer were present there.
    The first sentence shows that only one person who was both Secretary and Treasurer was present there.
    The second sentence shows that two persons, one Secretary and the other Treasurer, were present there.
    So we get the following rules—

Rule 1. When two or more Adjectives qualifying the same Noun are connected * by and the Article is used before the first Adjective only but when they qualify different nouns, expressed or understood, the Article is used before each Adjective.

Rule 2. When two or more Norms connected refer to the same person or thing, the Article is used before the first Noun only when they refer to different persons or thing, the Article is repeated with each Noun.

When two Nouns in a comparison refer to the same person or thing, the Article is used before the first Noun only; as,

  1. Jack is a better gardener than photographer.
    [It means Jack is both gar­dener and photographer, but he is not as.good a photographer as he is a gardener.]
  2. He is a better singer than dancer. But when two Nouns in the comparison refer to two different persons or things, the Article must be repeated with each Noun; as,
    John is a better writer than a painter [would make].
    He would make a better judge than a lawyer [would make],


Either: The third and the fourth chapter.
The English and the German language.

Or: The third and fourth chapters.
The English and German languages.

Exercise 62: Fill up the blanks in the following sentences with ‘a’, ‘an’, or ‘the’

  1. University is no place for _________ lazy.
  2. _________ Solider wears _________ uniform.
  3. He met with _________ accident. He lost _________ purse and _________ watch in _________ accident.
  4. Yesterday I Saw _________ one eyed man crossing _________ road.
  5. Have you seen _________ one rupee note?
  6. _________ Umbrella is _________ useful thing.
  7. Kneilworth is _________ historical novel.
  8. _________ each revolves round _________sun.
  9. _________ book you want is not in _________ library.
  10. _________ Gangee is _________ sacred river.
  11. _________ Himalayas lie to _________ north of India.
  12. _________ Punjab is _________ border state.
  13. This is _________ most interesting book on _________ history of _________ english langugae.
  14. We should pity _________ poor and _________ helpless.
  15. Kalidasa is _________ Shakespeare of India.
  16. _________ strong should help _________ weak
  17. _________ rich get richer and _________ poor get poorer
  18. _________ apple _________ day keeps _________ doctor away.
  19. He is _________ honourable man.
  20. _________ honest man is _________ noblest work of God.
  21. I watched _________ boy helping _________ old man cross _________ road.
  22. You shall not play _________ fool.
  23. There was _________ explosion in _________ town hall yesterday.
  24. _________ Ramayana is _________ holy book of _________ hindus.
  25. He is _________ Indian and she is _________European.
  26. _________ teacher book _________ history book and _________ English book out of _________ drawer.
  27. _________ ANdamans are _________ group of Islands in _________ Bay of BEngal.
  28. _________ English defeated _________ Germans.
  29. _________ lion is _________ king of beasts.
  30. _________ Flying mall was _________ hour late on _________ first of April.

Exercise 63. Insert or omit Articles where necessary

  1. Where there is will there is way.
  2. He became the king.
  3. He is Solomon of his age.
  4. The wisdom is the gift of heaven.
  5. The gold is precious metal.
  6. He preached the brotherhood of the man.
  7. English is language of people of England.
  8. The man is mortal.
  9. Sun rises in east.
  10. A black and a white kitten was playing in the garden.
  11. I have read the first and second chapter of this novel.
  12. Fiji is island in Pacific Ocean.
  13. Bird in hand is worth two in bush.
  14. The honesty is best policy.
  15. Rich as well as poor were benefited.
  16. The King George VI was King of England.
  17. The beauty can be found in every place. .
  18. The Everest is highest mountain in world.
  19. Woman is maker of home.
  20. Headmaster gave us holiday.
  21. He is historian of no mean repute.
  22. Lady he met at party worked for engineering company.
  23. What piece of work is the man!
  24. What beautiful scene this is!
  25. Honest man will speak truth.
  26. Cigarette is made of the tobacco and the paper.
  27. We make the butter and the cheese from the milk.
  28. Handkerchief is made of piece of the cloth.
  29. Knife is made of the steel.
  30. Ring is made of the gold or the silver.

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