Indefinite articles: ‘a’,’an’

A / AN

Use a’ with nouns starting with a consonant (letters that are not vowels), 
‘an’ 
with nouns starting with a vowel (a,e,i,o,u)

Examples

  • A boy
  • An apple
  • A car
  • An orange
  • A house
  • An opera

NOTE:
An before an h mute – an hour, an honour.
before u and eu when they sound like ‘you’: european, a university, a unit

The indefinite article is used:

  • to refer to something for the first time:
    An elephant and a mouse fell in love.
    Would you like a drink?
    I’ve finally got a good job.
  • to refer to a particular member of a group or class

Examples:

  • with names of jobs:
    John is a doctor.
    Mary is training to be an engineer.
    He wants to be a dancer.
  • with nationalities and religions:
    John is an Englishman.
    Kate is a Catholic.
  • with musical instruments:
    Sherlock Holmes was playing a violin when the visitor arrived.
    (BUT to describe the activity we say “He plays the violin.”)
  • with names of days:
    I was born on a Thursday
  • to refer to a kind of, or example of something:
    the mouse had a tiny nose
    the elephant had a long trunk
    it was a very strange car
  • with singular nouns, after the words ‘what’ and ‘such’:
    What a shame!
    She’s such a beautiful girl.
  • meaning ‘one’, referring to a single object or person:
    I’d like an orange and two lemons please.
    The burglar took a diamond necklace and a valuable painting.

Notice also that we usually say a hundreda thousanda million.

NOTE: that we use ‘one‘ to add emphasis or to contrast with other numbers: 
I don’t know one person who likes eating elephant meat.
We’ve got six computers but only one printer.


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