Grammar Exercise on Articles: A Date with ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’

Articles are a bit confusing. There is much more to discuss about articles than what we had learned in our childhood. This following exercise on ‘articles’ is crucial for concepts and recapitulation. I have also prepared a quiz that will help you track your knowledge on articles. If you’re confident with ‘articles’ take the quiz otherwise just skim the theory (below) and then take the quiz.

Back to the Basics:

We can divide articles into definite and indefinite. ‘A’ and ‘An’ are indefinite articles. They are used when the reader/hearer have no idea of what is being referred to. E.g. Amit is searching for a blue stripe shirt in the market.

The is what we commonly know as definite article. The hearer or the reader actually knows what he is referring to. E.g. Amit is searching for the blue stripe shirt which he saw last week. Knowing this basic rule and understanding the sense of the sentence can help you go through a lot of articles, however, not all.

Use of Indefinite articles (‘A’ and ‘An’)

A/An are used before singular nouns which are countable. (e.g. I need a flower)

A/An are used for singular countable nouns which for a class (e.g. A child needs love; the sense of the sentence is all child needs love)

We use ‘a’ before proper nouns when we have a vague idea of the person.(e.g. A Anil Misra was waiting outside the door)

Indefinite articles can never be used before plurals.

Use of ‘An’

Words beginning with silent ‘h’

e.g. an honourable man, an heir, an hour, an honest man

Some words starting with F, H, L, M, N, S, X begins with the sound of ‘e’

an MLA, an MP, an yield, an MBA, an N.C.C. officer, an X-ray machine, an S.P.

Use of ‘A’

A one-rupee note, a one-eyed man, a university, a unique article, a university, a euphemism, a European traveler, a unit, a uniform

Use of ‘The’

‘The’ always precedes the names of rivers, oceans, mountains ( the Himalayas, the Red sea)

Certain books like the Puranas, the Vedas

Musical instruments are always preceded by the e.g. the piano, the violin,

Religious and political groups, names of dynasty ( the Sikhs, the Janta party)

Why is it “India” and “the United States of America

We use ‘the’ before country names only if the name itself denotes a group of states. Not only we say, the United States of America but also “the United Kingdom”, “the Netherlands”. We also use ‘the’ with the phrase ‘republic’ like ‘the republic of the Congo’.

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