Nahhhh, they’re not really from the devil. But they can be tricky for the new English user. Just like the rest of English, especially English grammar, article usage has rules and and exceptions to the rules. While these rules and exception can seem difficult at first, with practice and time you’ll be a grammar expert in no time. Here are a few useful tips when using articles.
1) The, a & an are adjectives and describe the noun.
2) The is used for something specific and a/an is used for something nonspecific. For instance, “She is the winner” means there is one winner and she is it. “She is a winner” however, means there are more than one winners and she is one winner.
3) A or An is used depending on the sound of the following word. If there is a consonant sound in the following word, use a. For example, “a banana”. But if the following word has a vowel sound, use an. For example, “an apple”. A and An are only used after singular nouns.
Now here’s the bad news…there are some exceptions to the above rules! I know, I know. English grammar can be such a pain in the a**!
1) Articles are used with the names of Seas, oceans, mountain ranges, rivers, and deserts (The Pacific Ocean). But usually not used with continents or countries.
2) Articles are used with exclamations such as, “What an awesome song!”
3) With the use of some phrases such as “kind of” the article is left out for example, “what kind of bird is that?” not “what kind of a bird is that?”
And the list of exceptions goes on…
…which is why some English language learners will want to cry out, “Articles are from the devil!”
I know many of my students get frustrated with articles and some of the common mistakes I hear are with countable and uncountable nouns such as rice, water, hair, and states of being. For instance, many student will say, “I want a rice for dinner.” This is incorrect.
If you would like to learn more about correct article usage and the exceptions to the rules message me on facebook.
As always, happy learning and don’t forget to leave a comment and let me know what you think.