A, An, and The:
Little words that we use everywhere...
But they are quite complex to figure out!Many languages don’t have them, which makes them especially challenging for learners.
And many other languages do have articles, but they don’t follow the same rules.
And, on top of all that, articles are hard to “pick up” in spoken English because they are often pronounced weakly and hard to hear.
First- these are two terms that you should know:1) A and AN are called “indefinite articles” in grammar books
2) THE is called a “definite article” in grammar books
*This post will focus on A and AN, the indefinite articles*
What is the difference between A and An?
- A is used before a consonant sound (a hamburger, a dog, a successful student, a very good apple)
- AN is used before a vowel sound (an egg, an unusual book, an awful headache)
* BUT... be careful of words that start with H or U! Remember...
- A hotel, A hamburger, a happy child (we hear the H sound, so we use “A”) BUT
- AN hour, AN hourly wage (the H is silent, so we use “AN”)
- AN umbrella, AN unusual man, AN unhappy person (the U makes a short, vowel sound, so we use AN) BUT
- A university, A useful computer program, A united group (the U makes a long sound…and we hear more of a Y sound at the beginning, so we use A)
To practice with A and AN, try these exercises: