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Grade 5
Aug 27, 2022

A, an and the are called the articles.  

Words that begin with a consonant sound are preceded by the article ‘a.’ In sentence 1, the dog begins with a consonant sound, and therefore, it is preceded by a. 

In contrast, article an precedes words that begin with a vowel sound. In sentence 2, apple begins with a vowel sound, and therefore, it is preceded by an

More examples: 

  • A book 
  • An umbrella 
  • A car 
  • An information 

Now, read the sentences: 

  • Can you give me a pen? 
  • I need an umbrella. 

In these sentences, the speaker is simply mentioning about a pen and an umbrella, respectively. The reader doesn’t get to know which particular pen and umbrella are being talked about. We know it is some random pen and umbrella. A situation like this arises because these words follow the articles a and an in their respective sentences. 

Therefore, we can refer to the articles a andan as indefinite articles. They are called so because they give us a sense of the noun in general without specifying which particular one it is. 

So, if someone says: 

  • I want to buy a car, it means he/she simply wants to buy any car. 
  • Can you get me an apple? He/she is asking to have an apple that could be brought from anywhere. 

More examples: 

  • A country– it could be any country. 
  • An English book- it could be any English book. 



An precedes words like hour, heir, honest, etc. where the consonant letters that begin the words are silent. 

Similarly, a precedes words like university, one dollar coin, unanimous, etc., because though the letters that begin the word are vowels, the sound is actually a consonant. 

Now, read the sentence: 

Can you please get me the apple that I’ve kept in the refrigerator? Here, it is clear that the speaker is talking about a particular apple

Just like the indefinite articles, there exists another type of article called the definite article. The is the definite article. It is called so because it points out to the specific person, place or thing that is being spoken of. 

So, if someone says, “Let us have the cake that we bought yesterday,” he/she is talking about the one particular cake that was bought yesterday and not anything else. 

More examples: 

  • The book that I borrowed from my friend last week is missing. 
  • What did you do with the money that I gave you? 

They should not be used before names of people and countries. 

  • The Michael- wrong 
  • Michael- correct 
  • The Canada- wrong 
  • Canada- correct 

Some exceptions where we use the definite article before countries are: The U.S., the West Indies, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. 


The two pronunciations: 

It is pronounced as “thee” when it precedes a noun which begins with a vowel sound, like; 

  • The English teacher 
  • The engineer, etc. 

It is pronounced as “tha” when it precedes a noun which begins with a consonant sound, like; 

  • The doctor 
  • The book, etc. 


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