The articles are a, an and the. Articles are words that define whether something is specific or unspecific. For example: Use 'the' to define something as specific: This is the lake. (This is a previously specified lake, i.e., one already known to the audience.) Use 'a' or 'an' to define something as unspecific: This is a lake. (This is a previously unspecified lake.) Even though there are three articles (the, a, an), there are two types of articles: The Definite Article (the)The Indefinite Articles (a and an) The is called The Definite article because it is used to indicate something specific. A and An are called the indefinite articles because they are used to indicate something and unspecific.
Given below are some rules for using Definite and Indefinite Articles. Using indefinite articles: a & an Rule - 1 A common noun in the singular number always requires an article before it. But a plural common noun does not require an article always. A plural common noun can have the articles 'the' if we want to particularise that noun. Example: I saw a snake in the garden last week. (Refers to a random snake.) I saw snakes in the garden. (No article required.) I saw the snake again yesterday. (Refers to the snake I have already seen earlier.) Rule - 2 The choice between the two indefinite articles - a & an - is determined by sound. Words beginning with consonant sound precede 'a' and words beginning with vowels and precede 'an'. There are some special cases also. For instance, a university, a union, a useful book, etc. a one - dollar note, a one man army, etc. an Ma, a BA, an LLB, a BSC, etc.
Rule - 3 A or an - sometimes make a Proper noun a Common noun. Proper nouns generally do not take any articles, but when a proper noun needs to be used as a common noun, you must bring a or an - for it. Example: He thinks he is a Shakespeare. (Here, 'Shakespeare' does not refer to the actual person but someone like him.) He seems to be an Australian. ('Australia' is a proper noun but 'Australian' is a common noun because there is only one Australia but millions of Australians.) Rule - 4 Sometimes indefinite articles are used to refer the number 'one'/ 'each'/'per'. Example: I earned a one thousand dollar in that job. (One thousand dollars) I have a car. (One car) It goes 50 miles an hour. (Per Hour) Rule - 5 Indefinite articles often precede descriptive adjectives. Example: He is a good boy. What a nice car! Rule - 6 'A' sometimes comes before determiners, for example , a few, a little, a lot of, etc. but in cases of many, a or an comes after. Example: I have a few friends coming over. Many a fans welcomed him.
Using Definite Article:the Rule - 1 'The' is used to indicate a particular person(s) or thing(s) in case of common nouns. Proper nouns generally do not take an article. Example: The man is running. (A particular man) I saw the boy stealing. (A particular boy) Where is the pen I gave you last year? (A particular pen) I gave him a ball, but he lost the ball. ('a ball' become 'the ball' in the second clause because that ball was not a random ball anymore.) Rule - 2 Sometimes 'the' is used to generalize a group/whole class. Example: The dog is a faithful animal. (Refers to the whole species of dog.) The English are industrious people. (Refers to the people of England as a nation.) The honest are respected. (The + adjectives = plural noun) The poor are not always dishonest. (The + adjectives = plural noun) Rule - 3 To particularise a non - count noun 'the' is required before it. Example: The water of the Arctic ocean is freezing. Please return the money I lent you last year.
Rule - 4 'The' is mandatory before a thing which is only one of a kind in the universe. Example: The moon is shining tonight. The earth is moving around the sun. Use of 'the' before geographical places: Rule - 5 Using 'the' with geographical nouns generally depends on the size and plurality of the things those nouns refer to. 'The' Is generally used everywhere except some cases. So, it's better to know those exceptions first: 'The' must NOT precede: Names of continents: Asia, Europe, Australia, Africa, South America, North America, Antarctica. Names of countries: Australia, Bolivia, England, France, Spain, etc. Names of states, cities or towns: Los Angeles,Alaska, Sydney, London, etc. Names of streets: George street, Albion Street, New town street, etc. Names of single mountains: Mount Everest, Mount Solitary, Mount Bindo, Mount Fuji, etc. Names of languages: Spanish, Russian, English. (When 'the' precedes these nouns, they refer to the population of those languages.) Names of sports: Cricket, Football, Basketball, etc. Names of discipline/subject of studies: Biology, History, Computer Science, Mathematics, etc 'The' is a widely used article in English. Except for the list mentioned above and proper nouns, 'the' is used before almost all the nouns which mean something definite/particular. The above list has some opposite factors also. Those factors are explained in the following list: 'The' must precede: Names of oceans, gulfs, seas and river: The pacific, The Atlantic, The Coral Sea, The Arabian, The Ganga, The Murray River, The Thar Desert, etc.