Article (grammar)

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This article is part of the grammar course.

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There are only two (or three) articles in English that most native speakers recognise - the and a (and an). The first is the definite article (called definite because it tends to define a definite or particular one). "That is the car I'd like" means the particular model, or machine. The second (and third) are called the indefinite article(s), because they are much more vague. They tend to mean 'any one' - "I'd like a car" means 'any car'.

    • The difference between a and an is the purely phonetic use of the consonant '-n' to break between the preceding vowel 'a-' and a following vowel: foreign learners have to remember to use a before a noun beginning with a consonant and an before a noun beginning with a vowel, in ways which native speakers rarely even consider.

Foreign learners of English may find it helpful to recognize that in English the absence of any article (the 'null article') may have significance to native speakers - though few can explain it - and AWE has not yet ventured on it!

In modern descriptions of grammar, articles are perhaps more usefully classed as a special form of determiner.