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Articles of Speech

Articles of Speech

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Requirements

Articles

Part 1-”the”, “a”, and “an”



Hello! In this lesson, we will learn how to use articles. Articles are words that combine with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun, and may also specify the volume or numerical scope of that noun.

Remember that nouns are words which refer to a person, place, or thing. The articles in English are “the” and “a” ., “a” can also take the form “an” in some instances. Whenever we encounter the articles “the” , “a” ,or “an”, we know that a noun will follow directly after them. Articles are very important to understanding the context of sentences in English and you will encounter them in every conversation you have.

The word “the” is referred to as the definite article and is used before nouns to refer to a particular instance of that noun. For example, in the sentence “the cat is black.” , “the cat” is used to refer to a particular cat. Which particular cat is being spoken about is derived by the context of the conversation.

Another example of the definite article “the” is “the man is tall.” In this sentence, “the man” refers to a particular man, whose identity is known by the context of the conversation.

The indefinite article “a” is used before singular nouns that refer to any member of a group. For example, in the sentence “a cat is a mammal.” , “a cat” refers to any cat and not a particular individual cat. Also, “a mammal” refers to mammals in general and not to a particular one.

Another example of the indefinite article “a” is “a mouse likes cheese.” In this sentence, “a mouse” refers to mice in general and not to any particular mouse.

The indefinite article “an” is used before singular nouns that refer to any member of a group in exactly the same manner as the article “a”. “an” is used whenever the noun following the indefinite article begins with any of the letters “a”, “e”, “i”, “o”, “u” . Sometimes nouns starting with the letter “h” use the indefinite article “an” as well. For example, in the sentence “an orange is delicious.” , “an orange” refers to any orange and not a particular individual orange. In this instance we use the indefinite article “an” rather than “a” because “orange” begins with the letter “o”.

When speaking English, the words flow in a much smoother manner when the indefinite article “an” is used before the letters “a”, “e”, “i”, “o”, “u”, or “h” . For example, we would say :

“an apple”

“an elephant”

“an island”

“an ocean”

“an uncle”



Let us now listen to a short dialog and then we will examine each part of the conversation in more depth. In this dialog, Jennifer and David are at the lake.

Jennifer: The sun is very hot today.

David: Yes, the sun is very hot. The lake is cool.

Jennifer: A dog is in the lake.

David: The dog wants a ball.

Jennifer: I have a ball in the car.

David: Do you want a drink?

Jennifer: Yes, I want an ice tea.

David: Here is the ice tea.

Jennifer: Thank you.

David: You are welcome.

Now we will examine each part of the conversation in more depth, paying particular attention to the use of the articles “the” , “a”, and “an”.

In the first sentence, Jennifer says “The sun is very hot today.” By saying “the sun” we know that Jennifer is referring to our particular sun and not to any other sun in the universe.

David then says “The lake is cool.” “the lake” refers to a specific lake, which we know by the context of this conversation is referring to the lake that they are located at. If instead David had said “a lake is cool.” the meaning of the sentence is changed to mean that any, non-specific lake is cool.

Jennifer says “A dog is in the lake. ” “a dog” refers to any dog and not a specific dog. Again, “the lake” refers to the specific lake that they are visiting.

David says “The dog wants a ball.” Now, “the dog” refers to the specific dog which Jennifer has said is in the lake. “a ball” refers to any, non-specific ball.

Jennifer responds, “I have a ball in the car.” Again, “a ball” refers to any, non-specific ball. “the car” refers to a specific car which is known from the context of the conversation. In this case, “the car” refers to the specific car that Jennifer and David drove to the beach.

David then asks “ Do you want a drink?” “a drink” refers to any, non-specific drink. “a drink” may refer to water, tea, beer, etc.

Jennifer responds “Yes, I want an ice tea.” where “an ice tea.” refers to any, non-specific ice tea. Notice that the indefinite article “an” is used before “ice tea” because “ice” begins with the letter “i” .

David then says “Here is the ice tea.” “the ice tea” refers to the specific ice tea that the men have been discussing.

Now, let us listen to the dialog again and pay special attention to the use of articles.

Jennifer: The sun is very hot today.

David: Yes, the sun is very hot. The lake is cool.

Jennifer: A dog is in the lake.

David: The dog wants a ball.

Jennifer: I have a ball in the car.

David: Do you want a drink?

Jennifer: Yes, I want an ice tea.

David: Here is the ice tea.

Jennifer: Thank you.

David: You are welcome.


Excellent! Now that you have a basic understanding of articles, it is your turn to practice speaking in English.