Definite And Indefinite Articles

Types Of Articles Articles can be definite or indefinite Indefinite Articles “A” and “AN” are indefinite articles and are used to indicate indefinite references to a noun. While ”a”  is used before a word starting with a consonant sound such as boy, goat, house, hoe, elephant, aeroplane etc. NOTE that the following words begin in […]

Types Of Articles

Articles can be definite or indefinite

Indefinite Articles

“A” and “AN” are indefinite articles and are used to indicate indefinite references to a noun. While ”a”  is used before a word starting with a consonant sound such as boy, goat, house, hoe, elephant, aeroplane etc. NOTE that the following words begin in consonant sound despite having vowel letters starting them. They must therefore attract article ‘A’, e.g Europe as in A European man, University as in A university. Others include: Eucharist, Eunuch, unit, union, uniform etc,

“an” is used before words that start with vowel sounds.

Examples: an egg, an apple, an orange.

NOTE that the following words have silent ‘h’ and they must attract article ‘an’. E.g an hour, an honest, an honour. But words like house, home, hoe, etc attract article ‘a’ because they do not have silent sound ‘h’, e.g,  a house, a hoe, etc.

 

Definite Article “the”

This refers to particular person or thing (i.e. a definite reference)

How the definite and indefinite articles are used:

 

Noun types can be categorized based on how they refer to objects or concepts. The distinctions lie in whether they involve indefinite reference or definite reference. Let’s explore this across different categories of nouns:

 

  1. Singular Count Noun:

Indefinite reference: A desk

Example: “I need to buy a desk for my home office.”

Definite reference: The – the desk

Example: “The desk you recommended is excellent.”

 

  1. Plural Count Noun:

Indefinite reference: Desks

Example: “The furniture store has a variety of desks to choose from.”

Definite reference: The – the desks

Example: “I have already assembled the desks for the new employees.”

 

  1. Non-count Noun:

  Indefinite reference: Furniture

Example: “I need to purchase some furniture for the living room.”

 Definite reference: The – the furniture

Example: “The furniture in this room is both elegant and comfortable.”

 

In the case of singular count nouns, “indefinite reference” implies a general mention of any desk, while “definite reference” specifies a particular desk that is already known or has been mentioned before.

 

For plural count nouns, “indefinite reference” refers to desks in a general sense, while “definite reference” pinpoints specific desks that have been previously identified or discussed.

 

Non-count nouns, like “furniture,” exhibit “indefinite reference” when discussing furniture in a general context and “definite reference” when referring to a particular set of furniture that is already established or known.

 

Understanding these distinctions helps in effective communication and ensures clarity when referring to singular count nouns, plural count nouns, and non-count nouns in both written and spoken language.

 

Some – some books

Some water

 

Water

The – the books

The – the water

 

All nouns use “the  as the word that makes definite reference. So, “the” is definite article making reference.

 

Uses of the definite article “the”

When there is only one of the things being referred to– the sun, the moon, the wind, the rainfall.

When the hearer or the reader can know which particular thing or things are being referred to:

Give me the bag under the bed.

(Both the bag and the bed are already known to the speaker and the listener)

The letter in the envelope.

‘The’ is also used before the title of a newspaper. E.g  The Punch, The Nation etc.

(Both the letter and the envelope are also known)

 

Descriptive Use

Here the definite article describes a noun.

The accused was acquitted for want of evidence.

She has the courage of Esther.

Generic Use

Here, the definite article is used to refer to what is normal or typical for a member of a class.

The banana is found mainly in the Southern Nigeria.

The tiger is a very ferocious animal.

It is used before the noun that indicates that there can be only one such thing or group of things.

The Soviet Union

The Principal

The Minister of Education

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