Articles are a part of speech in the English language used to modify nouns. There are two types of Articles–Definite ‘the’ and Indefinite ‘a’/’an’. Here we are going to learn about Indefinite Articles. When we don’t know which particular object is talked about we use ‘a’ or ‘an’. E.g. “I am looking for a book, it’s big and blue.”
Now, let’s look at these lines to understand why we need to use articles for correct English sentences:
E.g. 1) This is red bus.
E.g. 2) That is orange car.
Do these sentences sound right? No, because they are incomplete. To help the reader make sense of what is written we put ‘a’ or ‘an’. Now let’s rewrite these and see the difference:
E.g. 1) This is a red car.
E.g. 2) This is an orange car.
Now the question here is, when do we use ‘a’ and when do we use ‘an’?
The article ‘an’ is used when nouns (or the adjectives following them) begin with vowels ‘a, e, i. o, and u. The article ‘a’ is used when the first letter is a consonant like b, c, d, f, g etc. Also, we use these articles only for singular nouns, e.g.:
Correct: This is a car.
Incorrect: This is a cars.
Some English language learners become confused when they see exceptions to the rule of using Indefinite Articles. See the sentences below:
This is a house.
It has been an hour.
He brought an umbrella.
She teaches in a university.
Notice how even though the first letters of the words house, hour, (consonants) or umbrella, university, (vowels) are the same, the articles used are not.
This is because, articles not only follow letters but also the sounds of these letters. In the word hour, the ‘h’ is silent and sounds like a long a sound and the word university begins with a y sound.
Once this exception of vowel sounds is understood, it becomes easier to put the correct articles for grammatically correct sentences.