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 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

"I’ve been decorating the house this summer". (this sentence at the present simple & present perfect continuous)

i get little bit confuse about this sentence. pls clarify me. my question this sentence talking about future tense . is not it?

Hello taj25,

'I've been decorating' is the present perfect continuous, not the present simple. It does not refer to the present, but rather a time that began in the past (sometime this summer) and which is still continuing (i.e. it is still summer now). See this page for more on this topic.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hi peter

if i had known this website. i will be become a good speaker.

could you tell me as this sentence grammatically correct.it would be appreciate.
many thanks
hussain

Hello Hussain,

I'm afraid that is not grammatically correct, as it mixes a third conditional and first conditional structure. Please see our Conditionals 1 and 2 pages for more on this, and then if the reason this is not correct is still not clear, you're welcome to ask us about it there. As always, please make your question as specific as possible and explain to use what you think - we can help you better that way.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

this comment really helpful for me. many thanks

sorry to say post again here.

i will become a good speaker if i had know this website before.

are the sentence grammatically correct.

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