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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Submitted by amrita_enakshi on Tue, 06/02/2018 - 11:38

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Hello sir Should we say ' an English soldier ' or ' a English soldier' ?
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Tue, 06/02/2018 - 17:17

In reply to by amrita_enakshi

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Hello amrita_enakshi,

'an' is the correct form here, since the word 'English' begins with a vowel sound.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by RamMin on Fri, 02/02/2018 - 16:25

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Good day, I think I am confused between these rules : "to say something about all the things referred to by a noun" - for definite article "The" and "5. We use a/an with a singular noun to say something about all things of that kind:" for indefinite article "a and an " Please clarify! Thank you in advance.

Submitted by foofighters12 on Mon, 22/01/2018 - 19:40

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That was quite helpful