Using “A” & “An” in English

USING “a” AND “an”

“a” and “an” are the same article which is “ indefinite article”. Although they are used for same purpose in a sentence, there are some similarities and differences in using of them.

Using “a”:

1. a” is used in front of singular countable nouns ( a person, animal or thing ) which are not specific.

In other words;

When we use “a”, we do not talk about a specific thing or item. We mention any one of items. It doesn’t matter which one it is.



Examples:

  • a train ( we do not talk about a specific train. We mention any one of trains )
  • a window
  • a cat

2.a” is not used with plural countable or uncountable nouns.

Examples:

  • a love ( wrong ) love ( correct )
  • a football ( wrong ) football ( correct )
  • a money ( wrong ) money ( correct )

3. If a noun starts with a consonant sound (b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, etc.), “a” is used before the noun.




Examples:

  • a dentist
  • a country
  • a mountain

4. If a noun starts with a vowel letter, but it’s pronanciation ( sound of the word )  starts with a consonant, ‘a’ is used.

Examples:

  • a university ( “u” sound like yu )
  • a European ( “e” sound like y )
  • a uniform ( “u” sound like yu )



 Attention!!

In english, sounds of the words are important for using articles “a/an”. The sounds are significant, not the letters.

5. If a noun include adjective or adverb starting with a consonant sound, “a” is used

Examples:

  • a nice movie
  • a successful man
  • a universal language ( “u” sound like yu )

Using “an”:

1.an” is used in front of singular countable nouns ( a person, animal or thing ) which are not specific.

In other words;

When we use “an”, we do not talk about a specific thing or item. We mention any one of items. It doesn’t matter which one it is. ( Same usage with “a” / Similarity )

Examples:

  • an airport ( we do not talk about a specific airport. We mention any one of airports )
  • an iceberg
  • an election



2.an” is not used with plural countable or uncountable nouns. ( Same usage with “a” / Similarity )

Examples:

  • an education ( wrong ) education ( correct )
  • an equipment ( wrong ) equipment ( correct )
  • an information ( wrong ) information ( correct )

3. If a noun starts with a vowel sound (b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, etc.), “an” is used before the noun.

( Different usage with “a” / Dissimilarity )

Examples:

  • an umbrella
  • an ice cream
  • an inspector

4. If a noun starts with a consonant letter, but it’s pronanciation ( sound of the word )  starts with a vowel, ‘an’ is used. ( Different usage with “a” / Dissimilarity )

Examples:

  • an hour ( “h” is silent )
  • an ‘N’ letter  ( “f” sound like en )
  • an x-ray ( “x” sound like ex )



 Attention!!

In english, sounds of the words are important for using articles “a/an”. The sounds are significant, not the letters.

5. If a noun include adjective or adverb starting with a vowel sound, an” is used. ( Different usage with “a” / Dissimilarity )

Examples:

  • an interesting book
  • an unusual sport
  • an honest man ( “h” is silent )

8 thoughts on “Using “A” & “An” in English

  • March 17, 2017 at 11:22 pm
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    This is the easiest way to describe Articles. Grammar can only be learnt through these lessons. If exercises are included with these rules, it will become easier to prepare the topics.

    Reply
  • Pingback: A, An, The – Articles in English – English Study Page

  • March 31, 2017 at 5:37 pm
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    Is it correct to say a noise

    Reply
    • March 31, 2017 at 8:37 pm
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      Some nouns in English can be used both as countable and uncountable nouns. The point that makes the difference here is the difference in meaning. I mean that

      If “noise” is in the sense of sound, it is countable. ( In this case, we can use “a” as an article )

      Examples: Did you hear a noise last night? or I heard a loud noise.

      If “noise” is in the sense of loudness, it is uncountable. ( So we can not use “a” as an article )

      Examples: There is too much noise. or They complained about the noise.

      Reply
  • May 24, 2017 at 7:13 pm
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    Thank you for this amazing explanation .Please, if you can provide us with some exercises I will appreciate it more .

    Reply

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