You are here

The indefinite article: 'a' and 'an'

Level: beginner

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

Police are searching for a 14-year-old girl.

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

She is a pupil at London Road School.

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

Jenny Brown is a pupil at London Road School. She is 1.6 metres tall, with short, blonde hair. When she left home, she was wearing a blue jacket, a blue and white blouse, dark blue jeans and blue shoes. 

Anyone who has information should contact the local police on 0800 349 781.

We do not use an indefinite article with plural nouns or uncount nouns:

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

The indefinite article 1

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTU3MTE=

The indefinite article 2

GapFillTyping_MTU3MTI=

The indefinite article 3

GapFillTyping_MTkxMTE=

We use a before a consonant sound:

a banana (starts with /b/) a university (starts with /j/)

and an before a vowel sound:

an orange (starts with /o/) an hour (starts with /au/)

Note that the choice of a or an depends on sound, not spelling.

The indefinite article 4

GapFillTyping_MTU3MTM=

 

Comments

Hi incredible team
I want to know something about indefinite articles.
For example, when I say
'I need a computer.'
This means' I need one computer not two. 'or
' I need any computer not specific computer.

I get confused.
I'd really appreciate it.
Thanks!

Hello Nevi,

I'm not sure what your question is here! It seems like you have a pretty good grasp of the topic as your explanation of your example is correct. If you substitute 'the' for 'a' here then you would be asking about a specific and known item, not just any item.

 

I want a computer = any computer is fine; it doesn't have to be a particular one

I want the computer = you know which one I want; maybe it's the only one we have, or maybe it's one we've talked about already

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sorry teacher
I couldn't explain well.
So I saw that we can use a/an instead of 'one'.
I mean, when I say
'I want a computer.'
Does that mean 'I want just one computer but two, three or four computer etc.

Or like you wrote
any computer is fine; it doesn't have to be a particular one.

You'd be really helping me out.

Hello Nevi,

We use 'a' with singular nouns, so it refers to one item rather than more than one. It also tells us that the speaker is not talking about a particular computer. The answer to your question, therefore, is that 'a' carries both of these meanings, not just one of them.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hmm
For example when I say
I have a brother.
' A' here means one, doesn't it?

Hello Nevi,

In 99.9% of situations people would mean that they have one brother by saying this. In a very specific (and unusual) context in which the speaker was, for example, trying to hide the fact that they have more than one brother, it could mean that the speaker has at least one (not a particular) male sibling, but that is quite unusual. As I said, in the vast majority of situations, they would say 'I have two brothers' (or however many brothers there are) instead of 'I have a brother'.

As I said, the unusual case I mentioned is extraordinarily rare, so in general you can count on this meaning that the speaker has one brother.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hmm
So it refers to one item rather than more than one.
I wonder if I can use indefinite article instead of one?
Like" I need a telephone. "
-->I need one telephone but 2, 3 or etc. telephones.?

I'd really appreciate it.

Hello. Which one is correct? Why not the other?

1- Mr Ashraf is such a man that you can trust him.

2- Mr Ashraf is such the man that you can trust him.

Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I don't think we would use either construction. You need to include an adjective of some kind:

Mr Ashraf is such an honest man (that) you can trust him.

Mr Ashraf is so honest (that) you can trust him.

Alternatively, you could use a phrase like this:

Mr Ashraf is the kind of man (that) you can trust.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Pages