Articles (a, an, the) – Lesson 1 – 7 Rules For Using Articles Correctly – English Grammar

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In this lesson, learn the 7 rules for using articles in English correctly.

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Transcript:
Hello and welcome. In this
lesson, I will teach you the
seven rules that you need to
know for using articles in
English correctly. Articles are
the words ‘a’, ‘an’, and ‘the’.
There is a final quiz at the
end of the lesson for you to
test your understanding.
OK, the first rule is about
where to use ‘a’ and where to
use ‘an’. So rule number one is
use ‘a’ before a consonant
sound, and ‘an’ before a vowel
sound.
So in all of these words – you
see that they start with a
consonant sound. Cat starts
with /k/, dog
starts with /d/, boy with /b/,
girl with /g/, house with /h/
and tree with /t/.
So we say ‘a cat’, ‘a dog’, ‘a
boy’, ‘a girl’, ‘a house’, ‘a
tree’ etc. Notice that in
natural speech, we don’t say
‘a’, we say ‘uh’ – like ‘a
cat’.
In this next set of words, you
see that, they all start with a
vowel sound – apple starts with
/ae/, engineer starts with /e/,
ice-cream with /ai/, old with
/o/, umbrella with /uh/.
So we say ‘an apple’, ‘an
engineer’, ‘an ice-cream cone’,
‘an old womman’, ‘an umbrella’
and so on. In speech, we don’t
say ‘an’, we say /ən/.
Let’s do a small exercise. You
see ten items on the screen.
For each one, I want you to say
if you would use ‘a’ or ‘an’
before it. Stop the video,
think about it, then play the
video again and check.
OK here are the answers. Did
you get them all right? I want
to focus on items number seven
to ten because these are a
little tricky. Number seven is
‘a university’ because even
though ‘university’ starts with
the letter ‘u’ the first sound
of the word is not a vowel
sound. We don’t say
/ooniversity/. We say /yoo-nə-
vər-si-ty/ so that first sound
is a /y/ sound, which a
consonant sound, so we say ‘a
university.’
Number eight is similar. The
word ‘European’ starts with a
/y/ sound, so ‘a European
tour.’
In number nine, the spelling
has an ‘h’ at the start but
that ‘h’ is silent. We don’t
say /hau-ər/, we say /au-ər/.
The first sound is an /au/
sound which is a vowel sound,
so this is ‘an hour’. In the
same way, in number ten, we say
MA. ‘M’ starts with an /e/
sound which is again a vowel
sound, so ‘an MA in English’.
OK let’s move on to rule number
two: Use ‘a’ and ‘an’ ONLY with
singular, countable nouns.
We say that a noun is countable
if we can count it – one, two,
three, four etc.
All of these words on the
screen are countable. We can
say one elephant, three cars,
ten teachers, five hundred
onions and so on. Now if you
talk about one person or thing,
like one elephant or one
car, then that’s called a
singular noun and if you say
ten teachers or five hundred
onions, those are called plural
nouns.
Uncountable nouns cannot be
counted in this way. Nouns like
water, sugar, milk, love,
anger, knowledge are some
examples. If you think about
it, you cannot say “I drank
four waters” or “I want eight
milks”. To a person, you can
say “I love you” but you can’t
say “I have five loves for you”
– that doesn’t make any sense.
So these are all uncountable.
Alright, so the rule is – you
can only use ‘a’ and ‘an’ if
you’re talking about one person
or one thing.
Let’s do another quick
exercise. Here are ten items
again. This time, you see ‘a’
or ‘an’ before the nouns, but
some of these are wrong. They
should NOT have ‘a’ or ‘an’
before them. Stop the video,
identify the mistakes, then
play the video again and check.
OK, here are the answers.
Number three is wrong because
‘shirts’ is a plural and you
cannot use ‘a’ or ‘an’ before a
plural noun. Number five is
wrong because ‘happiness’ is
uncountable, so again, ‘a’ or
‘an’ cannot be used there. The
same goes for number six –
water is uncountable. Number
nine is wrong because ‘doctors’
is a plural – you can say ‘a
doctor’ but not ‘a doctors’.
And finally, in number ten,
advice is an uncountable noun –
so you cannot ask for ‘an
advice’.
Now a quick note here: the
article ‘the’ can be used with
all kinds of nouns – singular
or plural countable nouns, and
uncountable nouns.
OK, so let’s now talk about how
to choose between ‘a’ or ‘an’
and ‘the’.
Here’s rule number three: Use
‘a’ or ‘an’ to talk about a
person or thing unknown to your
listener. And use ‘the’ to talk
about a person or thing known
to your listener.
For example, “My sister has two
computers: a PC and a laptop.
The PC is quite old but the
laptop is brand new.” I say ‘a
PC’ and ‘a laptop’ because
that’s the first time I’m
mentioning the two computers.
That is, until this point, they
are unknown to you, the
listener. But now, I can say
“The PC is quite old but the
laptop is brand new.” When I
say ‘the PC’, you know which
one I’m talking about: my
sister’s PC. And the same thing
goes for the laptop. So the PC
and the laptop are now known to
you.

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4 Comments

  1. Barnabas Simon

    June 26, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Thanks for this lesson. Even though I'm a native speaker, i still find myself learning alot.Knowing the reasons why some things are the way they are. Thank you very much Sir.

  2. Chinta satya rajesh

    June 26, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    Sir Please give us a complete video on tenses

  3. omar ziani

    June 26, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Hello in the latest exercises specially in example N6 B: why you put a before whitener is in a countable noun . and thank you I wish you all the best keep going.

  4. rajnish pandey

    June 26, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    sir please add video on active and passive voice…

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