Indefinite Articles :
The Adjective THE is generally called the Definite Article
and A or AN is called the Indefinite Article
AN is used before a vowel or silent H.
1. An Apple
2. An Egg
3. An Ink-Bottle
4. An Heir
5. An Hour
6. An Honest Man
7. An Ox
A is used before a consonant, before U sounded as YOO, before EU sounded as Y and before O sounded as WU.
1. A kite
2. A cart
3. A bottle
4. A useful thing
5. A unit
6. A one-eyed man
7. A European nation
Even before an aspirated H we sometimes use AN, provided the accent is on the second syllable. Thus we say…A HIS-TO-RY…because here the accent is on the first syllable HIS but we may say AN HIS-TOR-I-CAL novel, if we prefer it.
As a general rule, a Common Noun in the Singular Number should have an Article placed before it. Thus we must not say … I saw dog.
But...I saw a dog or the dog is the correct form.
1. If we wish to particularise the Noun, we use the Definite Article.
2. Let us go and bathe in the river (that is…the river near our house or the river where we usually bathe).
3. This settles the matter (that is…the matter with which we are dealing).
4. They struck him in the face (that is…in his own face).
If we wish to generalise the Noun, we use the Indefinite Article.
1. A tiger is a fierce animal (that is, any tiger or tigers generally).
2. A cat is not so faithful as a dog.
Since A is a contraction of ONE, it is sometimes used in the sense of ONE.
1. A stitch (=one stitch) in time saves nine.
2. Two of a trade (=of the same trade) seldom agree.
When a Common Noun is used in the Plural Number, the Definite Article should not be placed before it, unless we wish to particularise the Noun.
1. Storks gobble up frogs.
But if we are talking about some particular storks and some particular frogs that might be in some pool of water close at hand, we should say…
2. Look! The storks are gobbling up the frogs.
An Article is not placed before a Proper, Material or Abstract Noun, except when any of these is used as a Common Noun.
3. He is the Nestor (= the oldest man) of the service.
4. Sugar-cane is one of the grasses (= kinds of grass).
5. He is a justice of the peace.
THE is sometimes used to indicate a class or kind of anything. One individual is thus made to represent the entire class. The following all mean the same thing.
1. The lion is a noble beast.
2. A lion is a noble beast.
3. Lions are noble beasts.
When THE is placed before a Common Noun, it sometimes gives it the meaning of an Abstract Noun.
1. He felt the patriot (the patriotic spirit or feeling) rise within his breast.
2. He allowed the father (his fatherly feelings) to be overruled by the judge (his sense of duty as a judge) and declared his own son to be guilty.
As a general rule a Proper Noun should not have THE placed before it. But the following are exceptions.
(a) Names of rivers :
1. The Ganges
2. The Indus
(b) Names of groups of islands :
1. The Andaman Islands
2. The East Indies
3. The Hebrides
But individual islands do not have THE placed before them.
1. Sri Lanka
Names of ranges of mountains have THE placed before them.
1. The Himalayas
2. The Vindhyas
3. The Alps
But many individual mountains do not have THE placed before them.
1. Mount Abu
2. Mount Everest
Exceptions to the above rule :
1. The Matterhorn
2. The Jungfrau
Names of straits, gulfs, seas, canals and oceans have THE placed before them.
1. The Palk Straits
2. The Persian Gulf
3. The Bay of Bengal
4. The Arabian Sea
5. The Mediterranean Sea
6. The Suez Canal
7. The Panama Canal
8. The Indian Ocean
9. The Atlantic Ocean
The name of a province is very seldom preceded by THE.
In India, the only exception is THE PUNJAB.
The Article THE is usually placed before the proper names of books.
1. The Bible
2. The Ramayana
3. The Mahabharata
4. The Holy Quran
But if its author's name is given in the Genitive, the article is not used.
1. Homer's Iliad
2. Tulasidasa’s Ramayana
Names of ships have THE placed before them.
1. The Victoria
2. The Delhi
Generally THE is NOT placed….
1. Before the names of towns (London & Calcutta)
2. Before the names of capes (Cape Comorin & Cape Horn)
3. Before the names of countries (England & India)
4. Before the names of continents (Asia & Europe)
5. Before the names of single islands (Ceylon & Sicily)
6. Before the names of single mountains (Mount Abu, Parasnath & Everest)
7. Before the names of lakes (as Lake Sambhar)
But we say….
1. The Hague
2. The North Cape
3. The Bitter Lakes
THE is sometimes used before Common Nouns which are names of things unique of their kind.
1. The Sun
2. The Moon
3. The Earth
4. The Sea
5. The Sky
THE is also placed before the Superlative Degree.
1. Honesty is the best policy.
2. This boy is the cleverest of all.
THE is placed before an Adjective when the Noun is understood.
1. The rich (rich persons) should help the poor.
THE is placed before a Noun when we want to give it the force of a Superlative.
2. He is the painter (=the best painter) of the day.
THE is also used in the following idioms…
3. The more, the merrier.
4. The more one has, the more one wants.(If one has more, one wants more in proportion.)
The Definite Article THE is used before a Proper Adjective when people or nation is understood, but omitted when language is understood.
1. The English often fought the French.
2. French is more difficult to learn than English.
But, THE is used in the following phrases and sentences.
1. Translated from the French…
2. Translated from the the German…
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