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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

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The indefinite article 2

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The indefinite article 3

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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

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Comments

Hello RamMin,

Please see Peter's response to another user who asked this same question. He explains this difference in detail there.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

That was quite helpful

Hello dear Kirk,
Thank you. Thank you sir.

Hello respected team,
Which one is true in the following sentence? Send him (in or at) the beginning of second class to the counselor. (in or at ) the beginning I told you to not touch the wire.
In the following sentence why we use (in)? I am taking a math course in school.
Thank you for the help.

Hello Hosseinpour,

In the first sentence, 'at' is correct since it mentions the beginning of something. I suppose 'at' is also correct in the second sentence, though I'm not sure what the context is so I can't say for sure. 'in the beginning' vs 'at the beginning' are explained on this page, with examples -- I'd suggest you take a look.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi!
The indefinite article point no: 3 She has short blonde hair. (= uncount noun)
Can it be as following She has short blonde hair(s) instead of hair?

Hello drsachin,

It's grammatically correct to use 'hairs' (i.e. the plural noun), but it implies that she has few of them. To speak of people's hair, the default is to use the uncount form -- the count form implies something quite unusual.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello respected sir,
Thank you for the help, thank you.

Hello dear team,
I have questions about the use of in/on with street. A asks B: Where are you now? B: I am in the street/ on the street.
Can we say: the car is parked at the other side of the street.
Longman dictionary: young people living on the street. If we walk by the scene and actually see it, should we say young people are living in or on the street.
Thank you.

Hello Hosseinpour

We use 'in the street' to describe something which is physically present:

there is a man standing in the street

I couldn't drive any further because a tree was lying in the street

 

We use 'on the street' when we are talking about buildings and addresses:

there is a very nice cafe on that street

I'll meet you outside the bank on the street with the fountain

 

The phrase 'live on the street' means to be homeless and it is a fixed expression; we do not use 'in' with this.

I think the phrase 'on the other side (of the street)' is by far the most common. We use 'at' when the phrase changes to 'at the other end (of the street)',

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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