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

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.

In Article 2, it has been mentioned that except for the illnesses mentioned there, other illnesses have no article. But I checked in Oxford and other dictionaries, other illnesses such as fever and cough have indefinite article before them. How is that?

Thanks

Hello naghmairam,

I'm afraid I don't see any reference to illnesses on this page. Could you please explain more specifically where you saw this on our site?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
IT's on the page titled 'Articles 2".
Thanks

Hello naghmairam,

Yes, you're right, and thanks for pointing that out. We will have to revise that section of the page, as I think it could explain this better.

Personally, I'd not call headache, fever, etc. illnesses, but rather symptoms. The flu is an illness, as is diptheria, malaria, etc. As far as I can think, for all illnesses other than the flu, the definite article is not used, as the page says.

I hope that clears it up for you. Thanks again.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

can you tell me why do you need an indefinite article in following sentences. apples are a health food since the food is uncountable noun. My grandfather is a little sick vs my grandfather is sick.I have been living here for a long time. A tomato is a fruit.
the sick, fruit and food are all noncountable nouns.

Hello yoo,

'Food' can be both countable and uncountable. It is countable when it means 'types of food', as in your example. 'Fruit' is similar - it can be countable when it means 'types of fruit'.

Sometimes the article is simply part of a phrase and not used with a noun. The phrase 'a little' is an example of this: it is a modifier which means the same as 'slightly'. Similarly, 'a long time' is a fixed expression.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear British Council Team,
Requesting your comments on below.
1. Wish you a very Happy Birthday (I added article since birthday is countable but age is not known exactly).
2. Wish you the very Happy 20th Birthday (Countable and exact year is known. Is it correct?).
Also some of the festival wishes has an article (such as a Happy Christmas) and some does not. Can you please throw some light on this?
Regards,
Jayakumar

Hello ktjayakumar,

The phrase 'a happy birthday' here is fixed and does not depend on whether or not we know the age, so we would say:

I wish you a happy birthday!

I wish you a happy 20th birthday!

Note that we do not capitalise the phrase unless it is just a direct wish:

Happy Birthday, Bob!

Happy 20th Birthday, Bob!

We include the article when the phrase is part of a sentence (the first examples) and not when it is a direct wish (the second examples).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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