1. We use the indefinite article, a/an, with count nouns when the hearer/reader does not know exactly which one we are referring to:

Police are searching for a 14 year-old girl.

2. We also use it to show the person or thing is one of a group:

She is a pupil at London Road School.

 

Police have been searching for a 14 year-old girl who has been missing since Friday.

Jenny Brown, a pupil at London Road School, is described as 1.6 metres tall with short blonde hair.

She was last seen wearing a blue jacket, a blue and white blouse and dark blue jeans and blue shoes. 

Anyone who has information should contact the local police on 0800349781.


3. We do not use an indefinite article with plural nouns and uncount nouns:

She was wearing blue shoes. (= plural noun)
She has short blonde hair. (= uncount noun)

 

Police have been searching for a 14 year-old girl who has been missing since Friday.

Jenny Brown, a pupil at London Road School, is described as 1.6 metres tall with short blonde hair.

She was last seen wearing a blue jacket, a blue and white blouse and dark blue jeans and blue shoes

Anyone who has information should contact the local police on 0800349781.

 


4. We use a/an to say what someone is or what job they do:

My brother is a doctor.
George is a student.

5. We use a/an with a singular noun to say something about all things of that kind:

A man needs friends. (= All men need friends)
A dog likes to eat meat. (= All dogs like to eat meat)

 Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Thank Kirk for the comment and the link. It is really helpful. Best wishes to you! :D

Hello! I've noticed that sometimes people say 'a long time ago', 'have a nice time'. Is it correct to use 'a' in these cases? 'Time' is uncountable, isn't it? :)

Hello Yura_Tea,

The word 'time' is used in many, many different ways, and can be used as count noun or uncount noun. If you follow the link, you'll see that even when it's used as a count or uncount noun, it is still used in many different ways.

In 'a long time', it is used as a count noun referring to a period of time (follow the link). It's not very specific at all, as 'a long time' could be interpreted as just a few minutes in some contexts or hundreds of years in others – what is meant depends on the context.

In 'a nice time', 'time' is also used as a count noun referring to an occasion (follow the link). If you have a good time, it means you enjoyed yourself.

I hope that helps you get a handle on it!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hello! I 've got question about using article with words headache, stomachache, toothache backache earache Do English peole use "a" before these words or not?

Hello belka30,

The answer is that sometimes they do and sometimes they do not; or, more precisely, some people use 'a' and some people use no article. Both forms are possible:

I have toothache.

I have a toothache.

However, 'headache' is an exception to this and always has 'a' before it, unless it is a second reference in which case 'the' is used.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
Is the definite article required before the names of all famous buildings? For example, India Gate. I found that names of some buildings do not have 'the' before them.
Thanks

Hi naghmairam,

No, the definite article is not always required. It really depends on the particular building. For example, we say 'the White House' and 'the Louvre' but 'Buckingham Palace' and 'York Minster'. I'm afraid these simply need to be remembered as you come across them.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello sir, how are you?

1)what did i do wrong in a past?

2) they need details about his past.

3) who was i in the past?

my question is why writer used indefinite article in 1 example and definite article in 3 example?
why not in 2 example?
please explain these sentences individually that'd be nice.
thanks advanced

Hello ahmednagar,

We do not generally provide explanations of sentences from elsewhere, as I'm sure we've already mentioned. This is because they are often dependent on a context which we do not have, may not be accurate or may be spoken or written for a certain rhetorical effect which we cannot know. In other words, we are commenting on sentences which we may not fully understand.

As an example, your first sentence is not correct. I suggest you make sure you have good examples from which to draw conclusions regarding the language system. Otherwise you will end up confused.

We do not use both a possessive adjective (like 'his', 'my', 'their') with an article. If you use one then you do not use the other. Therefore you can say 'his past' or you can say 'the past', but not 'his the past' or 'the his past'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

thank you so much and I'll bear in mind your suggestions next time.

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