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Indefinite Articles

When you were an elementary grade student, you learned that the article 'an' goes before vowels (a, e, i, o, u), and the article 'a' goes before consonants (letters that are not vowels), like (d, s, r, v,j etc.) The sound is more important than the spelling; we say 'an umbrella' and 'a union' because the sounds of the first letter are different.
Consider the sentence: I have an aunt who works at a university. I will meet her in an hour.
So, why is it 'an' aunt but "a" university? And why 'an' before hour?? The answer is: word sounds.

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What are Indefinite Articles?

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Indefinite articles are invariable. The indefinite article is used to denote something for the first time or to state a certain member of a group or class. The pronunciation of the definite article changes, depending on the original sound of the word that it heads. If the word begins with a consonant sound, the ‘e’ in ‘the’ is pronounced 'uh': the (thuh) bat, the (thuh) cat. If the word begins with a vowel sound, the ‘e’ makes a long vowel sound like in sweet: the (thee) automobile, the (thee) exorcist.

There are two types of articles indefinite 'a' and 'an' or definite 'the'. The word “the” is known as the definite article and indicates a specific thing. The word “a” which becomes “an” when the following word begins with a vowel – “a, e, i, o, u” is called the indefinite article because the noun it proceeds with is indefinite or general. We use the indefinite article, a/an, with count nouns when the hearer/reader does not know exactly which one we are referring to.

Lets consider: There once was a sheep.
I don’t know which sheep it was – don’t know its name or where it’s from, or anything about it – so I can’t say the sheep.

What are Indefinite Articles
  • Police are searching for a 14 year-old girl.
  • She is a pupil at London Road School.
  • My brother is a doctor.
  • George is a student.
  • He has an importance in our club.
  • A man needs friends. (= All men need friends)
  • A dog likes to eat meat. (= All dogs like to eat meat)

Helpful hint: As a rule, you can remember that abbreviations or acronyms that use 'an' start with these letters: A, E, F, H, I L, M, N, O, S, X

When to Use “a” and “an”

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Use a to refer to something for the first time.
  • Would you like a drink?
  • I've finally got a decent job.
  • An elephant and a mouse fell in love.
Use a with names of jobs.
  • Claude is a surgeon.
  • Kathy is training to be an engineer.
  • He wants to be a professional dancer.
Use a with nationalities and religions in the singular.
  • Jacob is an Englishman.
  • Maria is a Catholic.
Use a with the names of days of the week when not referring to any particular day.
  • I was born on a Thursday.
  • Could I come over on a Saturday sometime?

Use a to refer to an example of something.

  • The cat had a tiny nose.
  • The giraffe had a long neck.
  • It was a very strange car.

Use a with singular nouns after the words 'what' and 'such'.

  • What a shame!
  • She's such a beautiful girl.
  • What a lovely day!

Use a meaning 'one', referring to a single object or person, or a single unit of measure. In these sentences using "one" instead of the indefinite article is grammatically correct. It will add emphasis to the number, and contrast with other numbers.

  • I'd like an orange and two lemons please.
  • I'd like one orange and two lemons please.
  • The burglar took a diamond necklace and some valuable paintings.
  • I can think of a hundred reasons not to come.
  • I need a kilogram of sugar.
  • I need one kilogram of sugar.
  • You can't run a mile in 5 minutes!

Examples of Indefinite Articles

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Let’s discuss Indefinite Articles in detail with the following examples.
  • I bought a pair of shoes.
  • Bruce Springsteen is an American.
  • We need half a pound of sugar.
  • This is quite a good story.
  • She didn't get an invitation.
  • Does his name begin with an "F"?
  • A girl who was wearing a yellow hat.
  • I saw a movie last night.
  • They are staying at a hotel.
  • I would like a piece of cake.
  • I was in a Japanese restaurant. The restaurant served good food.
  • Did you bring an umbrella?
  • We have English 4 times a week.
  • What an amazing view!
  • She will come back in an hour.


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Type in the correct indefinite article. Decide whether you need to use a or an.
  • _____unknown goblin killed ______unicorn.
  • Buy ________ house in _____hour.
  • There is _____ new English book on the desk.
  • She's reading_________ old comic.
  • They've got ______ idea.
  • He is drinking _______ cup of coffee.
  • The girl is _______ pilot.
  • This is ________ expensive bike.
  • Look! There's _________ bird flying.
  • My friend likes to be ______  astronaut.
  • Ronaldo is _______ famous football player.
  • New York Times is ______popular news company.
  • Angelina Jolie is ______ actress.
  • Bart Simpson is _______child.
  • Jane would like to have ______ pony.
  • At home, we have _______  huge television.
  • Doctors recommend at least ________ hour of exercise, three times a week.
  • On the train, there ______man who was snoring very loudly.

Highlight the Definite article from the below sentences.

  • Yesterday, Rachel found a lost kitten.
  • Ryan's mum sent him to the local supermarket to buy some milk.
  • On his way to school today, Tony saw an accident on the road.
  • Chris wants to go to the cinema on Friday.
  • In order to get a good mark on the English test, Marc has to do all his homework.
  • Cassandra found a lucky penny today.
  • Doctors recommend at least an hour of exercise, three times a week.
  • Peter's maths teacher asked her if she had the right answer to the equation.
  • Jack has two brothers. The older one is called John.
  • There is a beautiful garden in front of my house.
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
  • Melissa: Is Camron Diaz an Irish actress?
  • Samantha: No, my father is  a math teacher.

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