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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


The indefinite article 2


The indefinite article 3


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




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.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Which article to use in the following sentence without extra context?
- Martin likes badminton, but he doesn’t often get (a - the) chance to play.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Both are possible. I don't think there's any difference in meaning so it's really a question of personal choice and linguistic background (idiolect and dialect).



The LearnEnglish Team

I have a question regarding the first exercise. Shouldn't we say "This isn't very unusual; a lot of people are afraid of THE spiders.", since it's the sencond time the spiders are mentioned? Thank you in advance!

Hi tanipetrush,

There is no article here because we are talking about spiders in general. If we were talking about a particular spider then we would use 'a spider' for first mention and 'the spider' later (or 'spiders' and 'the spiders' for more than one spider), but for general meaning we do not use any article.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir,

This is the sentence I came across in a blog :

Everyone can't wait for 2020 to be history and with
it all the shake ups it brought.

Sir, why it should not be with indefinite article '2020 to be a history' . What difference in meaning would it make with and without 'a' .

I must say that the blogger is an aclaimed writer and is unlikely to commit a grammatical mistake.

Please share your view sir !


Dipak R Gandhi

Hello Dipak,

The phrase ' history' is a fixed expression. It means something is done, finished or ended. It can also mean that something or someone has been defeated.


We only use 'a history' in the context of a book: this is a great history of the Roman Empire.



The LearnEnglish Team

Undurstood ! Thank you sir !

Hello. Which one is correct?
1- We travelled to Sudan.
2- We travelled to the Sudan.
Thank you.