Use this tag for questions about the usage of articles (e.g. a, an, and the).

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106
votes
7answers
40k views

Do you use “a” or “an” before acronyms?

99% of the time, I'm clear on when I should use "a" versus "an." There's one case, though, where people & references I respect disagree. Which of the following would you precede with "a" or "an," ...
62
votes
10answers
16k views

When should I use “a” vs “an”?

In the following example, is it appropriate to use a or an as the indefinite article, and why? He ate __ green apple. I know that in the case of just "apple", it would be "an apple," but I've ...
61
votes
8answers
3k views

“A/An” preceding a parenthetical statement

When a/an precedes a parenthetical aside (sometimes seen in informal/conversational writing), should the vowel rule depend on the first word in parentheses, or the next word in the "regular" flow of ...
45
votes
8answers
15k views

Is there a reason the British omit the article when they “go to hospital”?

Why do British speakers omit the article in constructions like "go to hospital" or "go on holiday"? Pretty much all American speakers would rephrase those as "go to the hospital" and "go on a ...
35
votes
8answers
3k views

Why is there no plural indefinite article?

The takes either a singular or a plural subject. A/an only takes the singular. When we pluralize a noun preceded by an indefinite article, we simply drop the article (sometimes replacing it with ...
31
votes
5answers
9k views

Are there any simple rules for choosing the definite vs. indefinite (vs. none) article?

I can’t for the life of me figure out where to use a and where to use the — and where there is no article at all. Is there a simple rule of thumb to memorize? The standard rule you always hear: ...
20
votes
5answers
945 views

In “Are you staff?” does “staff” need to be preceded with an article?

Is it appropriate to say "Are you staff?" when asking someone if they are a staff member, or do you need to say "a staff"? This is regardless of any slang possibly incurred through either spoken, or ...
16
votes
6answers
2k views

Why do we say ‘I have “a” husband (wife)?

Though it may sound a very primitive question to native English speakers, the use of ‘article’ is always the greatest headache to me because we don’t have this part of speech in our language system (I ...
15
votes
3answers
1k views

Definite article — “on television” vs. “on the radio”

Why are these different? We heard the news on the radio. We watched the news on television. In this book, the author says we must use television without the. Why? It makes me crazy. Is ...
14
votes
5answers
2k views

Why do we say “Present Arms” instead of “Present Your Arms”?

There is a military command to Present Arms. And, depending upon the military and the situation, the typical response is to either salute or hold one's weapon in front of them in the prescribed ...
12
votes
4answers
1k views

New Oxford American Dictionary describes “the” as an adjective

When I look at the definition given from the Mac OS X Dictionary (I have set American English as interface language, and the dictionary used is then the New Oxford American Dictionary), I read: ...
12
votes
5answers
2k views

Use of definite article before phrases like Heathrow Airport, Hyde Park, Waterloo Station, Edgware Road and Parliament Square

In this related question (Definite article with proper nouns, titles followed by a common noun), the OP asks if it is grammatical to use the definite article before phrases like Advanced programming ...
11
votes
2answers
8k views

Is it “a user” or “an user” [duplicate]

Since user starts with a vowel shouldn't we use "an" ? I've seen many cases of using "a" .
11
votes
1answer
510 views

“A” vs. “An” in writing vs. pronunciation

When starting a word with a vowel, the preceding "a" becomes an "an". I often find that when writing words that start with letter "N" or "M", I will pronounce them "EN", "EM", etc. (This is because in ...
11
votes
3answers
6k views

Why use “the” for oceans/seas/rivers etc. but not lakes?

Possibly two questions in here: Are these sentence constructions logical, and if they are, why are they different? I swam across the Ocmulgee River. I swam across the Pacific Ocean. I swam ...
11
votes
2answers
323 views

Why is it “A first,” not “The first” for U.S Ice Dancing team taking the top spot in Sochi”?

I heard that the announcer, Tim McGuire reported that; “A first for U.S. Ice Dancing team, Gold. Meryl Davis, Charlie White taking the top spot in Sochi.” in February 17 AP Radio News. I also ...
11
votes
1answer
541 views

Does absence of articles in computer-related sentences look natural?

I'm a non-native speaker (actually from Russia) and for us the articles (a, an, the) came as a thing that we just have to adopt. We do not have not similar constructions in Russian. Menus I see in ...
11
votes
4answers
20k views

“As part of” versus “as a part of”

When should I use "as part of", and when "as a part of"?
10
votes
4answers
934 views

Why did Obama use “a” in “… to hear a King proclaim that …”

From Obama's second inaugural speech: We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our ...
10
votes
2answers
2k views

Is it correct to say “via a”?

Is it considered proper English to say something like this? I called her via a telephone. Or should the indefinite article be omitted entirely? I called her via telephone. If the ...
10
votes
3answers
4k views

Why is Ukraine often called “the Ukraine”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Using the definite article before a country/state name Hearing the Ukraine used to make me unsure whether Ukraine was really a country. Now though I have realized ...
10
votes
2answers
605 views

Why is “a” used here: “When a Mr. Andrews, the butler…”?

I posted a question several days ago about the significance of using “a,” in the sentence of Jeffery Archer’s novel, “False Impression” - “General Harry Wentworth was commanding his left flank when a ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

Use of “them” as an article, not a pronoun

I've seen a lot of times the pronoun them used like an article. For example, in the title of the Delta Rhythm Boys Them bones, or in the first sentence of "Money for nothing": Now look at them ...
10
votes
5answers
255 views

What is the radical difference between ‘this’ and ‘a’ when telling a story?

The following quotation is a line from Ron to Harry after the first stage of the Triwizard Tournament. (p359, Harry Potter 4, US edition) “You were the best, you know, no competition. Cedric did ...
9
votes
5answers
744 views

Do idioms pose an exception to normal definite and indefinite article usage?

I found this phrase in my biology textbook (emphasis added): ...in relation to Earth's history, 100,000 years or even a million years is the blink of an eye. The part of the phrase in question ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

Capitalising the definite article in names

When I was a youngster some mumble-mumble-mumble decades ago, I was taught that, in the instances of names of persons, places, and things which carried the definite article the, the article wasn’t ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

Is it necessary to use “the” multiple times?

It seems that the question has eventually become a series of questions.... Question 1 An example goes as: The 1st and (the) 2nd paragraphs of the article are extremely long. Is it necessary ...
9
votes
1answer
751 views

Omission of “the” in “elected him president” and “made captain”

Why is there no the before president and captain? They elected him president. She was made captain of the team.
9
votes
2answers
373 views

“There is X” vs “There is a/an X”

1: There is a reluctance on the part of European companies to buy from American sources. 2: There is an emphasis on the organic roots of spirituality. 3: There is a tendency to make the ...
8
votes
4answers
12k views

Is it “a uniform” or “an uniform”? [duplicate]

On a Physics specification, it says: 6.7 Know how to use two permanent magnets to produce a uniform magnetic field pattern. Isn't it "produce an uniform magnetic field", or is the existing ...
8
votes
5answers
762 views

Use of “The better”?

Disclamer: English isn't my first language. I learned during my English courses (a few years ago), that there is, as in French (which is my first language), a comparative and superlative version for ...
8
votes
3answers
180 views

“Welcome to Q&A for …” or “Welcome to a Q&A site for …”?

There's a question on Meta Stack Overflow about whether the current text for the welcome banner is grammatically correct. It currently reads: Welcome to Q&A for [site description] ...
8
votes
3answers
637 views

Is it correct to say “one out of *a* possible four”?

I am curious if it is correct to say "one out of a possible four". This is what I found in a publication: Discrete level (one out of a possible four), corresponding to a range of safety ...
8
votes
1answer
3k views

“An SQL Server database schema” or “a SQL Server database schema”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Do you use “a” or “an” before acronyms? I got the following sentence from the book I'm reading: You can take a database-first approach by ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

“Any” with countable nouns in questions

I have seen "is “any” also used with plurals", which explains that any can be used with singular, plural, and uncountable nouns. However, I want to ask specifically about questions. ...
8
votes
4answers
1k views

Why does English have an indefinite article? [closed]

I've seen many non-native speakers of English not making use of indefinite articles, presumably since their first language did not contain them. Thinking about this, and about the fact that even in ...
7
votes
5answers
2k views

Pronunciation of “a” in “make a difference” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: pronunciation of “a” I would like to know the pronunciation of a in the expression make a difference. Is it like a in ate or like a in about?
7
votes
5answers
37k views

“In recent years” vs “in the recent years”

Do we write in the recent years or in recent years? For example, In the recent years, the influence of blablabla on blablabla has grown rapidly. In recent years, the influence of blablabla ...
7
votes
6answers
2k views

Why does English need an article before any noun?

In my native language, we can say: I have dog Because I don't want to say a dog (one dog, how many dogs) or the dog (that dog, the listener don't care which dog). p.s. after 3 years later, I ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

Usage of “a” and “the” in titles

Which one should I use for page title? Apple — Tasty Fruit Apple — A Tasty Fruit Apple — The Tasty Fruit The article is only about tasty apple.
7
votes
2answers
653 views

Definite or indefinite article in “the/a devil's advocate”

I can't quite figure out which of the following expressions is more correct: He is the devil's advocate. He is a devil's advocate. He is playing devil's advocate. The combination of an article ...
7
votes
2answers
3k views

Using “the” before ordinal numbers

When learning English I was told that ordinal numbers should always be used with "the" before them. But I often see that this is not always so strict, for example I heard the phrase "April first" ...
6
votes
3answers
2k views

Is it correct to write “a 5-mm-thick layer”?

Do I need hyphens? Should I use the indefinite article or zero article?
6
votes
1answer
367 views

“Is key” or “is the key”?

I wrote this: This means that, as with any distributed application, concurrency is key: we have at least one flow of execution per node running concurrently with all others, and [...] I was told ...
6
votes
2answers
269 views

Unorthodox article placement

In my English class yesterday we looked at the following example: Monica is such a beautiful woman. We learned that the above sentence could also be written as: Monica is so beautiful a ...
6
votes
2answers
938 views

ABC, NBC vs. the BBC and the ABC

I am writing a style guide at my company, and for the life of me, I can't explain why U.S. broadcasters "ABC" and "NBC" seem to need no article as a noun, while the U.K. broadcaster "BBC" always gets ...
6
votes
1answer
378 views

“This essay was translated from the Chinese” — what does this “the” do?

Chen Guangcheng is a special student at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at the New York University School of Law. This essay was translated from the Chinese. Why don't they write: "This essay was ...
6
votes
2answers
215 views

“the average person” vs “an average person”

There's a question in a forum I frequent, and I'm trying to decide whether "the average" or "an average" is appropriate in its title. Let's say the question is: "Why is the average Canadian ...
6
votes
2answers
10k views

“During summer” vs. “during the summer”

What is the difference between saying "during summer" and "during the summer"? As in: I work during the summer. I work during summer. Are both common? Is my feeling correct that the ...
6
votes
1answer
11k views

Rule on absence of the article “the” with plural nouns [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Definite article with plural nouns I recently reviewed (as I believe, rather thoroughly) the rules of using articles in English and I do not recall any rule on absence ...