Campus Recruitment – Verbal Ability – Articles
‘Articles’ play a vital role in English language. We do not have such a thing like ‘articles’ in Indian languages. Therefore we have to learn the right usage of articles, when to use them and where to omit them.
Articles are divided into two groups.
- Indefinite articles – ‘a’, ‘an’ are usually referred to as ‘indefinite’ as they refer to an unknown person or thing.
- Definite articles – ‘the’ is usually referred to as ‘definite’ article as it refers to something definite, known or previously mentioned.
‘Articles’ are like adjectives and are used before nouns.
- A or An is used before a singular countable noun.
- The choice between a or an wholly depends on the pronunciation of the word.
- In English the ‘spelling of the word’ is different from the ‘pronunciation of the word’.
- ‘An’ is used before the word the pronunciation of which starts with a vowel sound.
- There are 44 sounds (each is given a symbol from the International Phonetic Alphabet).
- Out of the 44 sounds, there are 20 vowels and 24 consonants.
- Please note that, strictly speaking, A, E, I, O, U are not vowels but just letters of the English Alphabet having 26 letters.
- The indefinite article ‘a ‘ is used before
- A word beginning with a letter having a consonant sound.
E.g : a book, a man, a dinner.
- A word that begins with a letter (like O) with the sound like ‘wa’.
E.g : a one rupee note, a one eyed man.
- A word beginning with the ‘u! or ‘eu’ giving the consonant ‘yu’ sound.
E.g : a university, a European.
- The indefinite article ‘an’ is used before
- A word beginning with a letter like a, e, i, o, u having a vowel sound.
E.g : an apple, an egg, an umbrella.
- A word beginning with ‘h’ but the pronunciation starts with a vowel.
E.g : an heir, an honest man, an hour etc.
- An abbreviation, the first letter of which starts with a vowel sound.
E.g : an M.L.A, an M.P, an M.com, an NGO, an LPG, an NRI, an FIR etc
- A word beginning with a letter having a consonant sound.
Some Important Rules
- ‘a’ or ‘an’ is not used before
- plural nouns: a books, a universities, a dinners (wrong usage)
- uncountable nouns: an advices, an information (wrong usage)
- names of meals
E.g : Let us have dinner (correct)
Let us have a dinner (wrong)
An indefinite article can be used before name of meals when they are preceded by an adjective,
E.g : She gave me a good breakfast at 8 am.
‘a’ or ‘an’ is used in the following ways.
- It is used before the word ‘most’ when it is used in the same sense of very or much or exceedingly.
E.g : Sreedhar is a most intelligent student.
This is a most unfortunate event.
- With a noun complement. This includes names of professions.
E.g : He is an actor.
She is a good dancer.
It was an accident.
The words underlined are noun components. Also called subject complements.
Definite Article ‘the’ is used:
- When we speak of a particular person or thing or one already referred to:
E.g : The book you want is out of print.
The man you met yesterday is my manager.
- When a singular noun is meant to represent the whole class.
E.g :The cow is a useful animal The dog is a faithful animal
Note: It must be borne in mind that ‘man’ or ‘woman’ when used in general sense to represent ‘mankind’ as whole, never takes an article,
E.g : Man is mortal.
Woman is man’s better half.
- With names of gulfs, rivers, seas, oceans, groups of islands and mountain ranges:
E.g : The Indian ocean, the Arabian sea, the gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean, the Philipines, the Nile, the Alps.
- It is also used before countries perceived as a union of different states:
E.g : The United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates.
- Before the names of certain Holy Books:
E.g : The Bible, the Mahabharata, the Iliad etc
- Before common nouns which are names of things unique of their kind.
E.g :The sun, the moon, the ocean, the sea
- Before superlative degree and before ordinal numbers.
E.g : He is the cleverest boy in class.
- Before ordinals: first, third, ninth etc
E.g : I read the first chapter of this book.
- Before words showing directions.
E.g : The east, the west, the north, the south
- Before names of musical instruments,
E.g :The violin, the guitar, the piano
- Before proper adjectives.
E.g :The American army, the Australian team.
- Before the words ‘last’ and ‘next’.
E.g : He is sitting on the last bench.
The post office is in the next street.
When should we not use articles?
- Before a common noun used in its widest sense,
E.g : Man cannot live by bread alone.
What kind of flower is this?
- Before names of materials:
E.g :Diamond is the hardest element.
Wood is used to make furniture.
- Usually before proper nouns:
E.g : Hyderabad is a big city.
Kalidasa was a great poet.
But when an article is used before a proper noun, it becomes a common noun:
E.g : He is a Kalidasa, (a poet as great as Kalidasa)
He is the Kalidasa of our college, (the greatest poet in their college)
- Before abstract nouns used in a general sense,
E.g : Health is wealth.
Honesty is the best policy.
An abstract noun when it is qualified by an adjective (i.e. which acts as an adjective)
may have the article,
E.g : The generosity of Bill Gates is known all over the world. He had the courage of ten people.
- Before languages.
E.g : We are learning German.
Sanskrit is an ancient language.
- Before school, college, bank, temple, hospital, market, bed, prison when these places are used or visited for their primary purpose:
E.g : He stays in bed till ten every morning.
She goes to temple every Saturday.
He was sent to prison for burglary.
I learn my mother tongue in Sunday school.
There is however an exception to the above rule.
‘The’ is used with these words when we refer to them as a definite place, building or object rather than to the normal activity that goes on there,
E.g : I went to the bank to meet my sister.
- Before names of relations like father, mother, uncle, aunt, brother etc
E.g : Father has returned from work.
Mother finished cooking long ago.
Repetition of Articles:
If we repeat articles before each noun in a sentence, it denotes plural meaning.
If we do not repeat, it denotes singular meaning.
E.g : I have a black and a white cat (two cats)
I have a black and white cat (only one cat)
The secretary and the treasurer of the society have attended the meeting this morning,
(two different persons)
The secretary and treasurer has attended the meeting this morning, (one person holding two posts)
So if we repeat the articles, the meaning will change.
Some Correct Usage of Articles:
|I heard noise||I heard a noise.|
|There was lot of noise.||There was a lot of noise.|
|I have headache.||I have a headache.|
|I am in hurry.||I am in a hurry.|
Correction of Sentences
- I am going to the bank, (no article needed)
- This table is made of the teak wood, (no article needed)
- Harish is studying at an University in Germany, (a)
- Pacific is the largest Ocean in the world, (the pacific)
- He has read Ramayana many times, (the Ramayana)
- He is a honest man. (an honest)
- Sky looks beautiful at sunset. (The sun)
- She is last child of her parents, (the last)
- We sell only best quality goods, (the best)
- Her favorite flower is Rose, (the Rose)
- Livingstone was great explorer, (a great)
- She speaks the Chinese fluently, (no article needed)
- They are traveling by the land, (no article needed)
- Andamans are group of Islands in Bay of Bengal. (the andamans, the Bay of Bengal)
- December is last month of year, (the last, a year)