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In the English language, there are two articles: "a"/"an" and "the." Articles are used to identify nouns (people, places, and things).
1. When to use the definite article: the Use the definite article when talking about something the speaker and listener are both familiar with, or when referring to a specific noun.
Both singular and plural nouns can be identified using the definite article Let's look at the following examples
The white dogs are friendly. (Here the article "the" is used to describe a plural noun "dogs")
We are going to the baseball game. (Here the article "the" refers to a singular noun, "baseball game.")
I am going to the hospital. ("hospital" is a singular noun)
Different pronunciations of the article “the” When using the article “the”, you may hear two different pronunciations, depending on how it is used.
The article “the” can be pronounced with a short “u” when you are identifying something that begins with a consonant.
Example the cat= “thuh cat” ("cat" begins with the consonant "k") The article “the” can be pronounced with a long “e” at the end in the following two instances:
when you are identifying something that begins with a vowel, or when emphasizing something important.
Example the apple=”thee apple” ("apple" begins with a vowel, therefore "thuh" changes to "thee" and we add a little "yuh" sound at the beginning of "apple" to connect them
when you want to emphasize a noun, we also change "thuh" to "thee" Example That is the best donut I’ve ever eaten. In this instance, there is something specific about that donut that we want to emphasize.
2. When to use the indefinite article: a/an The indefinite article “a/an” is used to identify a singular noun, referring to one out of a general category. Therefore, it is not specific.
Pronunciations of "a"
The article “a” is used with a noun that begins with a consonant and is pronounced like “uh.”
Examples She is a professor. ("professor" begins with the consonant "p") John has a basketball. ("basketball" begins with the consonant "b")
The indefinite article “a” changes to “an” when it is used with a noun that begins with a vowel. Examples I would like an apple. ("apple" begins with the vowel "ae", so we switch to "an" and connect the two words: an apple Ron is an architect. ("architect" begins with the vowel "ah". I change "a" to "an" and it becomes "an architect."
When introducing a new noun, you should identify it with “a” or “an”. After that, you should use “the” because it is now something you and your listener are familiar with.
Let's look at the following example. I bought a new radio. The radio was expensive, but well worth the money. In the first sentence we are introducing a new topic, which is "radio", so I need to say "a radio." Once the radio is discussed, I can then either refer to it as "the radio" because we now know which radio it is, or I can say "it."
When an article is not needed 1. Do not use an article when you are talking about a category in general. Let's look at the following examples: music: I love listening to music. In this instance, we are referring to music in general, and not a specific kind of music, so an article is not needed.
food: I love to eat food. Food refers to all things edible, and not a specific type of food. Therefore, no article is needed.
soda: John enjoys drinking soda. Soda in this instance refers to soft drinks in general and does not need an article.
2. Do not use an article when we are referring to general meals, including "breakfast", "lunch", and "dinner". General meals refer only to the approximate time they are eaten, and although they imply a general type of food consumed, they do not specify a specific food, thereby no article is needed.
Examples I eat breakfast every morning. Lunch is my favorite meal of the day. What's for dinner tonight?
Note: If you are referring to a specific meal as an event, then an article is used. Example "We were invited to a holiday luncheon at work." Notice here that the word “luncheon” is used to refer a special afternoon lunch event. This is usually a more formal event. The indefinite article “a” comes before “luncheon” because it refers to a general holiday luncheon and not a specific one, like Christmas or Easter, for example.
Example "Were you invited to the breakfast for Jane last week?" The article “the” is used before the noun here because we are referring to a specific breakfast that was held last week and not just any breakfast.
Example "The dinner at John’s house was very well done." The article “the” is used in this example because it refers to a specific dinner at John’s house and not just dinner in general.
3. An article is also not needed with the name of one specific place, such as a street, town, city, state, country, continent, or natural resource.
Let's look at the following examples. "I live in Ohio." Ohio is the name of state, therefore we do not use an article.
"I went to France." France is the name of a country, so we do not need an article.
"He visited Tampa." Tampa is the name of a city, so we do not use an article.
"She lives on Main Street." Main Street is the name of a street, and therefore we do not need an article.
"Mount Snow is a mountain in Vermont." Mount Snow is the name of the mountain and therefore needs no article. Vermont is the name of a state and needs no article.
"My favorite beach is Siesta Key beach". Siesta Key beach is the name of a beach and therefore needs no article
Note: If you are talking about a group of specific places, use the definite article “the.” Example "I live in the United States." The United States is a specific group of 50 states in North America, therefore an article is needed.
Example "The Great Lakes are beautiful." The Great Lakes are five specific lakes located in the northern part of the United States and therefore needs an article.
Example "Have you been to the Rocky Mountains?" The Rocky Mountains are a group of specific mountains located in the midwest section of the United States, and therefore needs the definite article "the" to identify them.
Let's see how well you know your articles! Read the following paragraph and see if you can find the article errors. When you have completed this activity, feel free to email it to email@example.com for corrections. The United States is an country filled with many beautiful natural resources that you can visit. These may include lakes, the mountains, oceans, rivers, and parks, just to name a few. For people who enjoy the beautiful scenery and lush vegetation, Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone National Park are among the country’s most beautiful sites. For those who prefer lakes or the oceans, you can visit Great Lakes or beaches along the east and west coasts of United States.
If you like the outdoor sports, you can visit places, such as the Colorado, or northern New England. In New England, Vermont is probably the most popular place for snow skiing. These are just an few of a natural resources that can be enjoyed by visitors and residents alike.