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

Our glorious BBC has introduced a number of reports that include the words 'An horrific accident...'
I have always believed that 'An' should precede a vowel in this kind of phrase, and so intuitively, I would use 'A horrific accident'

Every time I hear this, it grates on my sensibilities.
Are the BBC correct in this case - is there an exception that I am not aware of?

The only justification I can arrive at is that cockneys feel the urge to 'drop' the 'H' leading them to the feeling that "An 'orrific accident..." might be correct?

Hello jnoake,

I'm afraid there's no simple answer to your question, as different authorities prefer different styles, and, as you point out, there are also different pronunciations. Some say that 'an' should be used before words beginning with 'h' and whose first syllable is unstressed (such as 'horrific') - this may be why you heard the pronunciation that led you to write to us - whereas many others, like you, would use 'a'. In the end, it's a personal choice, or a matter of style in the case of publications.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Please sir, which is correct in these sentences?
1) We are a Christian who knows what we are doing.
2) We are a Christian who know what we are doing
3) We are Christian who knows what he or she is doing
4) We are Christians who know what we are doing

Hello roc1,

'We' is a plural pronoun, so the noun must also be plural. Therefore only the fourth sentence is grammatically correct.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much sir. Please, could you help me with this one too?
1) There are people who prefer to go to church only on Sunday.
2) There are 'a' people who prefer to go to church only on Sunday.
Am so confused just because of the article 'a'. Please help clarify this.
Thanks.

Hello roc1,

The first sentence is correct. 'people' in this context is a plural noun referring to many individual persons, so 'a' is not correct. 'people' can be used in a different sense (see the dictionary entry under 'all the men, women, and children who live in a particular country, or who have the same culture or language'; in this use, it's possible for 'people' to be singular (and so you could use 'a' with it) or plural.

It might help you to look up 'people' in the Cambridge dictionary to see the translations in French - this might help you see the different uses here. My French isn't very good, but 'peuple' is the one when you could use 'a', I think.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir, I just wanted to clarify something.
I'm a bit confused about articles A and AN.
For example, Old buildingS are part of A country's heritage.
Is it correct? The article A is for country's heritage not for old buildings?
Thank you

Hello mark roi,

'an' is another form of 'a'. It is used when the word that follows it begins with a vowel sound - there is no difference in meaning between them. Since 'country's' begins with a consonant sound ('c'), 'a' is used. 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Good day! While I was looking through one textbook I came across an exercise with a following list of words, which we use with preposition "at": home, school, work, the gym, the airport, the cinema, a restaurant, the hairdresser's. I wonder why there's an indefinite article before "restaurant" ? Why don't we put "the" before it? (Because it seems logical for me as it belongs to the same group of words as the cinema, the gym etc.) Is there any rule how to use articles with buildings or places in the city?

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