Types of Articles in English! Learn article definition and how to use the definite article & indefinite articles in sentences with ESL infographic and examples.
An article is a word that modifies or describes the Noun. It is used before the noun to show whether it refers to something specific or not. So, in a way, articles can also be described as a type of adjectives as they also tell us something about the nouns, like adjectives.
There are two types of articles in the English language, they are indefinite articles (a, an) and definite article (the).
Types of Articles with Examples
Definite means to be clear, exact or obvious about something. It is called definite because it is used in relation to a particular thing or person. “The” is the definite article in English, which is used to refer to particular nouns, the identities of which are known. The definite article indicates that the noun is specific. The speaker talks about a particular thing.
- The cat sat on the couch.
- The dog attacked me and ran away.
Notice how the reference is not left indefinite in both the sentences. It is clear that a particular cat sat on the couch in the first sentence and a specific dog that attacked the speaker is being spoken about in the second example.
Other examples are listed below:
- I’ll pick you up at the airport.
- We spent all day at the beach.
- Let’s go to the movies this evening.
- I have to go to the bank and get some Euros.
I really enjoyed the book I’ve just finished reading.
Do you like the other kids in your class?
Indefinite means something which is not clear, obvious or exact. They are called indefinite because the identity of the thing or person being spoken about is left unclear or indefinite. The indefinite article indicates that the noun is not someone or something in particular. The speaker talks about anyone of that type of things. The indefinite articles in English are “a” and “an.”
- Do you have a pencil?
- I want to have an apple.
Notice how the speaker is not asking for a particular pencil or apple, but any pencil or apple in the above sentences.
Other examples are listed below:
- I’ve bought a car.
- She’s got a boyfriend.
- There was a sudden loud noise.
- What a shame that you couldn’t go to the party.
- I heard a child crying.
- He applied to become an American citizen.
- Chris has an evening job as an office cleaner.
- That was an excellent meal!
Where Articles Are Not Used?
The usage of articles is one of the most confusing things to remember for many English learners. It is not always necessary to use articles everywhere. Our tip is to remember the cases where articles should not be used.
Do not use articles:
# When you talk about things in general.
- For example: I like birds.
Here, the speaker wants to imply that he/she likes any bird in general, and not a specific type of a bird.
# When talking about plural count nouns.
- For example: Dogs make great pets.
Here, you are not talking about one specific dog or one specific pet; you are talking about all dogs in general.
# When talking about non-count nouns.
- For example: I love music.
Here, the speaker is saying that he enjoys music, in general – not any specific kind of music or song.
# When talking about specific days or holidays, geography, companies, languages.
- For example: I have bought candles for Diwali.
Here, the speaker is talking about the candles he has bought to use on the day of Diwali.
# When talking about Geography.
Articles are not used before countries, states, cities, towns, continents, single lakes, single mountains, etc.
- For example: I live in Canada.
Mt. Rosa is part of the Alps mountain range.
Here, Mt. Rosa is one mountain, whereas The Alps refer to a group of mountains.
- The United Arab Emirates, The Russian Federation”, The People’s Republic of China, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, The Dominion of Canada, etc., all contain articles because of the usage of common nouns such as kingdom, republic, states, united, dominion, emirates, etc.
- The Netherlands, the Philippines, The Bahamas, The Maldives, etc. have ‘the’ before them due to the plural nature of the names of the countries.
- The Ukraine, the Sudan, etc. are exceptions to all of these rules. It is perhaps, due to common use, or at least previous common use. There have been historical uses of articles before names of countries that don’t fit into either category.
# When you talk about companies.
- For example: Steve Jobs founded Apple.
I use Facebook every day.
Here, the speaker is referring to companies like Apple and Facebook.
# When you talk about languages.
- For example: I speak Hindi.
Here, the speaker is talking about the language Hindi.
# When you talk about places, locations, streets.
- For example: My house is located on Callowhill Drive.
I left my pen at home.
Here, a street called Callowhill Drive and speaker’s home are being talked about.
However, there are specific places that do need the use an article. For example:
the bank, the hospital, the post office, the airport, the train station, the bus stop, etc.
# When you talk about sports and physical activities.
- For example: I love to play cricket.
She enjoys dancing.
Here, cricket and dancing is being talked about.
# When there is a noun + number
- For example: She is staying at the Hilton hotel in room 127.
The train to Montreal leaves from platform 9.
Here, the nouns are followed by numbers; hence, no article is used.
# When talking about academic subjects.
- For example: I hate attending Mathematics classes.
Here, the mathematic classes are being discussed.