An article is a word that combines with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

162
votes
7answers
92k 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," ...
104
votes
14answers
89k 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 ...
76
votes
12answers
67k views

When should I use “a” versus “an” in front of a word beginning with the letter h?

A basic grammar rule is to use an instead of a before a vowel sound. Given that historic is not pronounced with a silent h, I use “a historic”. Is this correct? What about heroic? Should be “It was a ...
74
votes
10answers
7k 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 ...
44
votes
5answers
12k views

Why can we say 'an American' but not 'a British'?

I am confused with the use of an indefinite article in front of British or Chinese. To my understanding, we can place an indefinite article in front of any “countable noun”. So, we can say a cup and ...
43
votes
8answers
16k 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: ...
41
votes
8answers
7k 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 ...
25
votes
2answers
2k views

Why don't we use the indefinite article with 'software'?

Generally, one doesn't use the indefinite article with a noun because it's plural, but sometimes you get nouns where, for some reason, the indefinite article isn't used even though the noun is ...
23
votes
6answers
48k views

Does one use 'a' or 'an' before the word X-Ray?

I was asking this question on Area 51: "How do I tell if an airport scanner is a X-ray scanner?", but I keep wanting to put an 'an' in front of X-ray because it starts with the 'eh' sound. So is it ...
20
votes
4answers
38k 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 ...
18
votes
1answer
3k views

What article do we use before a symbol? Is it “an @” or “a @”?

I got a question when reading this text: The name of the decorator should be prepended with an @ symbol. Should we write "a @ symbol" or "an @ symbol"? As "@" is in fact "at", I would think "an" ...
16
votes
4answers
60k views

“As part of” versus “as a part of”

When should I use "as part of", and when "as a part of"?
14
votes
2answers
3k views

Usage of English definite article when referring to generic word

My mother language does not have articles, so I still struggle to choose when to use the indefinte and definite article. The other day, I learned: "The dog is an animal" is acceptable. "The iron is ...
14
votes
5answers
3k views

Why is it “an yearly”?

In the book The Wealth of Nations, (Adam Smith, 1776), the words an yearly are used. Why was this an exception to the indefinite article rules? Chapter VI, Book I: At the rate of ten per cent ...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

Indefinite article in the “An [adjective] [number] [plural noun]” construction

I wasn't sure how best to phrase the title of this question. I'm interested in constructions of the following form: An estimated 50 people died in the bombing. 'An estimated' could be ...
13
votes
5answers
85k views

“Half an hour” versus “half hour”

I'll be back in half an hour. I'll be back in half hour. Which is the correct sentence? Are there any differences between British English, and American English?
11
votes
5answers
59k views

Which is correct — “a year” or “an year”? [duplicate]

The word year when pronounced starts with a phonetic sound of e which is a vowel sound making it eligible for being preceded by an. Yet, we tend to write a year. Why?
11
votes
2answers
1k views

Are there specific rules to build expressions with or without articles?

In English, there are lots of expressions built using articles like: at the station to the cinema play the piano have breakfast (no article) take a bath take a shower Are there specific rules or ...
10
votes
4answers
1k 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
3answers
339 views

Why no determiner before either 'lunatic' or 'knight' in “He's more lunatic than he is knight”

In the Norton Critical Edition of Don Quijote, ably translated by Burton Raffel, there is a passage in which Sancho Panza is talking about the titular character and he says ...while I am thinking ...
10
votes
2answers
274 views

Can predicative complements not be bare noun phrases in English? That is, are clauses such as “I am student” incorrect?

In Chapter 4 of the book A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar, written by Rodney Huddleston of the University of Queensland and Geoffrey K. Pullum of the University of Edinburgh and published ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

Definite article with proper nouns, titles followed by a common noun

Over time I developed this rule where if a title or a proper name is followed by a common noun that represents the class of the entity I am referring to, then I use the definite article. In Example 1, ...
9
votes
3answers
238 views

Omission of the indefinite article to eliminate ambiguity

love between husband and wife What is the reason that there is no article (e.g. "love between a husband and a wife") in the above? Has some kind of a rule been identified grammatically when it ...
9
votes
2answers
9k views

Is pronouncing “The” as in “Thee” still correct in titles?

When saying the title of JRR Tolkien's masterpiece, which is the correct pronunciation (Yes, I know that they're spelled wrong, but I'm trying to emphasize the pronunciation): Thuh Lord of thuh ...
9
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
422 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
3answers
1k 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
7k views

A or an XML report? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Do you use “a” or “an” before acronyms? Does one use 'a' or 'an' before the word 'X-Ray'? Quite simply, should a sentence read "a XML report" ...
7
votes
3answers
8k views

How many articles should go in “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”?

On the very first Christmas card it was written as "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year..." http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/christmas-card-sayings-and-phrases.html In Wiktionary that same ...
7
votes
2answers
286 views

“An SATA device”? Weird article choice in suggested edit

This question references a suggested edit I rejected on Super User. The edit suggested that the a in There's no way you're plugging any of those directly into a SATA interface. be changed to ...
7
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Why do we use plural for indefinite objects?

Building off another question I answered here, I couldn't justify why exactly we say: I like to ride bicycles. Instead of: I like to ride a bicycle. (This could be anything: "climb mountains", ...
7
votes
2answers
969 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
3answers
6k views

a cold vs flu / the flu

Have you got a cold? Have you got flu? Have you got the flu? Why can't we say a flu or the cold in the previous examples?
7
votes
1answer
407 views

What colour eyes

I've just stumbled on this sentence What colour eyes does she have? in my grammar book. What got me interested in this is the combination of the words colour, eyes with what and without any ...
7
votes
1answer
306 views

“You're too clever a man”

You're too clever a man to imagine this. The above sentence was said by George Galloway, a man of excellent rhetorical skills. Since he said it, I doubt it's wrong, grammatically. But, I wonder ...
7
votes
6answers
374 views

“As I am wo/man” in Twelfth Night, II, 2 (Shakespeare): a case of indefinite article omission or no?

Are "As I am man" and "As I am woman" in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, II, 2 examples of indefinite article omission or not? This question is (e)specially directed towards those familiar with ...
6
votes
2answers
718 views

Why is “a” necessary before “Mr. X” and “Mrs. Y”?

There is the following sentence in the scene a reputed lawyer, Thomas Cohen gives advice to 16-year old client William Kane, the son of deceased bank owner on the issue of inheritance of his father’s ...
6
votes
3answers
356 views

Article in “having (a) hard time”

What's the difference? I'm having hard time figuring that out I'm having a hard time figuring that out According to Google both are used equally often. Does the article change meaning here? ...
6
votes
3answers
2k views

I love pictures on my phone - what does zero article imply?

Please, look at the sentence: "I love pictures on my phone" What can it mean? 1) I love all the pictures that are now on my phone with no exceptions? 2) I love most of the pictures that are now ...
6
votes
1answer
252 views

What's the rule behind the use of the articles to refer to something in general? [closed]

I'm very confused about the use of English articles in generalisations with singular countable nouns. I read in a grammar book that in case of the word 'man' - the rule is that, if you want to say ...
6
votes
1answer
274 views

When did the a/an distinction happen?

Why do we have two versions of the indefinite article? When did this happen? Are there any texts where only one is used?
5
votes
5answers
3k views

Indefinite article and people's names

Sometimes, on the internet, particularly in online games, I see people using the indefinite article before someone's name: "I see a Joey" or "I hug a Polly". I know some of these people and I'm ...
5
votes
3answers
13k views

“such a day” or “such day”?

It's such a nice day today! I'm interested in the usage of the indefinite article. I know this sentence is correct. We use an indefinite article in exclamations with countable nouns. But the ...
5
votes
3answers
389 views

Why is it “A president,” not “The president” in the sentence, “Voters re-elected a president who promised to fight for …”?

The New York Times article (November 9) titled, “The Fiscal Cliff Opener” begins with the following sentence. “On Tuesday, voters re-elected a president who promised to fight for higher taxes on ...
5
votes
2answers
6k views

Difference between “change is constant” and “change is a constant”

The boss asked me the other day whether it's more correct to say In our business, change is constant. or In our business, change is a constant. Both of these sound perfectly correct to me, ...
5
votes
5answers
421 views

Room Temperature: Article “A” or Not?

Below, “room temperature” takes the article “a” in one case but not the other. “Temperature” seems like a countable noun, so why no article in the first case? What is the grammar that is working here? ...
5
votes
1answer
292 views

My favourite animal is a dog, the dog or dog [duplicate]

I consider myself a pretty advanced English teacher and user. Nonetheless, I've recently found myself in a pretty difficult spot trying to explain which of the following sentences is correct: My ...
5
votes
2answers
393 views

Should one use an indefinite article after 'kind of'?

If the noun after kind of is singular, do we use an indefinite article or not? For example, That kind of an answer is teasing. That kind of answer is teasing. Which is correct?
5
votes
3answers
719 views

Indefinite Article Preceding Noun “Wind”

It's common to say "a gentle wind", but is it OK to say "a wind"? I just noticed that there's a novel named "A Wind in the Door", in which case I guess "A" could be used here due to the modifying "in ...