What is an article in English grammar?

article in English grammar

An article is a word that is used before a noun to show whether the noun is referring to something specific or not.

The Basics of Articles in English Grammar

Articles, a type of determiner, are words used before nouns to indicate whether the noun is specific or nonspecific. In English, there are two main types of articles: definite and indefinite.

The three articles in English grammar are “a,” “an,” and “the.” “A” and “an” are called indefinite articles because they do not refer to anything specific. “The” is called a definite article because it refers to something that is already known or specific.

The rules for using articles are as follows:

  1. Use “a” before a noun that starts with a consonant sound.
  2. Use “an” before a noun that starts with a vowel sound.
  3. Use “the” before a noun that is specific or already known.
  4. Do not use an article before a plural noun.
  5. Do not use an article before an uncountable noun.

Definite Articles: “The”

The definite article “the” is used to refer to a specific noun or when we assume the listener or reader is familiar with the noun being referenced. “The” is used in various situations:

When referring to something previously mentioned:

Example: I saw a cat yesterday. The cat was gray.

When referring to something unique or known to both the speaker and the listener:

Example: Let’s meet at the restaurant. The restaurant has a great view of the city.

When referring to a noun that is in a class or category:

Example: The dog is a loyal companion.

Indefinite Articles: “A” and “An”

The indefinite articles “a” and “an” are used when referring to nonspecific or non-particular nouns. The choice between “a” and “an” depends on the sound that follows the article.

Use “a” before words that start with consonant sounds:

Example: I bought a car yesterday.

Use “an” before words that start with vowel sounds:

Example: She is an exceptional writer.

Function and Meaning of Articles in English Sentences

Articles serve as determiners, providing information about the noun they precede. They contribute to the overall meaning, specificity, and clarity of a sentence. Let’s delve into their functions:

1. Introducing and Modifying Nouns:

Articles introduce nouns and convey whether the noun is specific or nonspecific. They modify the noun by indicating its definiteness or indefiniteness. For example:

Definite Article:

Example: The book on the shelf is mine.

Indefinite Article:

Example: A book fell from the shelf.

2. Marking Definiteness, Specificity, and Uniqueness:

Articles play a crucial role in marking the definiteness, specificity, and uniqueness of a noun. The definite article “the” implies that there is only one of a particular noun or that the noun being mentioned is familiar to both the speaker and the listener. On the other hand, using the indefinite article “a” or “an” implies that there are multiple instances of the noun:

Example: I saw a cat. (There could be multiple cats)

Example: I saw the cat. (There is only one specific cat being referred to)


Mastering the usage of articles is essential for effective communication and fluency in the English language. Understanding the functions, meanings, and correct placement of articles helps convey precise meanings and prevent potential misunderstandings. By familiarizing yourself with the rules and practising their application, you pave the way to becoming a proficient English speaker and writer and ace your IELTS exam with high band scores.

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