By Jon Watkins
What Are Articles?
Articles (also known as determiners) help our audiences understand the specifics of nouns in our sentences. Among many other things, they’re essential for sentence structure, clarity, and audience understanding. The three common articles are The, A, and An, but sometimes articles are omitted depending on the nouns that the articles modify. So without further ado, let’s get to know articles!
“The” is used for specific or particular nouns. If we choose to use it, our audience will know that the noun(s) it’s referring to are things that are unique or definite. That’s right, “the” can be used with both singular and plural nouns! Let’s say you were talking to a friend about an awesome concert you went to last night, and they asked how many people attended. Because you’re talking about a particular concert last night, what you say in response might look something like this:
“Yeah man, the concert last night was packed. There had to be like 1,000 people there easy.”
Now let’s try a response with “the” and plural nouns:
“The mosh pits there were just absolutely intense.”
With that previous response, we didn’t use “a” or “an” because those articles are used for non-specific nouns. When using ”a” or “an,” our audience understands that we are referring to things that are common or not unique. Continuing with our last example, let’s say your friend asked you about what happened at the concert:
“Dude, the guitarist played a solo that was so lit the stage almost caught on fire.”
Now you’re probably wondering what the difference between “a” and “an” is. Great news, they both mean the same thing! What matters is the word that follows it. “A” was used when we said “a solo” in that last response because “solo” begins with a consonant sound. “An” is used when a word starts with a vowel sound. As a quick example, you would say “a uniform” versus “an umbrella.” Let’s say this same friend asked what kind of guitar the guitarist was using. Here’s a reply using “an”:
“An awesome Gibson model with sound so electric I thought I heard thunder overhead when that guitarist was playing.”
But what if I told you that there are certain times when nouns don’t need articles? When we have nouns that are plural or proper, articles can be omitted. Let’s say that your friend asked about your thoughts regarding awesome guitar solos. Consulting your sagacious knowledge of rock, you might say something like:
“Awesome guitar solos are the glue that holds the musical genre of rock together.”
Articles are also often omitted with proper nouns, such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, or Chicago. Now that you have the ability to “determine” how you’ll use articles in your writing, go forth and rock some awesome article usage!
Angeli, E., Brizee, A., Lynch, P. (2011, March 3). Using Articles. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/540/01/