Parts of Speech – What is an Article?

(Last Updated On: March 8, 2018)

What is an Article?

What is an Article?

While we typically use words such as “the,” “a,” and “an,” without giving them much thought, they actually have a special name, articles, and there are some very specific details that define when you use these words. 

What is an article, you ask? Articles are a part of speech used to express whether something is specific or unspecific. Still confused? Sit up, pay attention, and get ready for a grammar lesson.

Using “the”

This is the article that is used to define something specific.

For example: “This is the house,” or “this is the new car.”

Used in this way, it presumes that the house or car were already previously mentioned and made known to the audience or reader. In other words, the article makes reference to a specific house and car, not a generic one. Because of this, “the,” is known as the definite article.

Using “a,” or “an”

Conversely, if the reader or audience has not been made aware of the subject, you would use “a,” or “an.” In these cases, the subject is unspecified, and as such these articles are known as the indefinite articles.

For example: “This is a house,” or “this is a new car.”

Things to Remember

  • You would select to use “an,” over “a,” when the word that follows starts with a vowel, or when the sound of the word is that of a vowel.
    • For example, use “an” for both of these sentences:
      “We are going to an appointment.”
      “I will be there in an hour.”
  • Articles precede adjectives (as shown above with “the new car”).
  • You only use indefinite articles (“a,” or “an”) with singular nouns.
    • For example, you wouldn’t say “play me a music,” you would say, “play me music,” or “play me some music.”
  • Articles are not used with possessive adjectives or possessive nouns, such as my, yours, his or hers.

While you have been using these words for most of your life, now you can brush up on your article speaking skills and know just when (and when not!) to use each one!

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