Articles with Countable Nouns
In this article, we will study the various uses of Indefinite and Definite Articles with Countable Nouns.
Articles with Singular Countable Noun
In case of singular countable nouns, we use:
the - to talk about the general features or characteristics of a class of things or people (and not any specific thing or person).
a/an - to talk about an unspecific thing or person.
Notice the difference:
The computer has revolutionised publishing. (correct - the statement is about computers in general)
A computer has revolutionised publishing. (incorrect - computers in general have done this, not an individual computer)
But notice these two sentences:
The computer is an important research tool. (correct – the general class of computers is an important research tool.)
A computer is an important research tool. (correct – any particular computer is an important research tool.)
That is, this is true of both the general class and an individual item.
In present day English we even use ‘a man’ and ‘a woman’ (or ‘men’ and ‘women’) to represent the general class of mankind/womankind.
A woman is more sensitive than a man. (correct)
Women are more sensitive than men. (correct)
Let’s see some more rules when it comes to the use of articles with singular countable nouns.
When we define something - we generally use ‘a/an’ rather than ‘the’.
A thermometer is a device used to measure temperature.
In exclamatory sentence, a/an is used after ‘what’ and ‘how’ and before the singular countable noun.
What a great party!
What a shot!
We use ‘a’ with a few words that denote the number of countable nouns.
E.g. a hundred, a million, a dozen, a couple etc.
It’s a million dollar deal.
I will like to buy a dozen bottles.
Articles with Plural Countable Nouns
We do not use an article before plural countable nouns when they are used in a general sense.
Children like toys.
Computers are used in almost all educational institutions now.
These plural countable nouns do take ‘the’ when used with a particular meaning.
Where are the children? (i.e. our children)
Other uses of Articles
Articles in case of Job
To talk about a person’s job in general, we use ‘a/an’.
But to talk about a person’s job title, or their unique position, we use ‘the’ or zero article.
He was a company director when he retired. (talking about his job in general)
She is (the) director of the company. (talking about the person’s job title)
After ‘the position of’, ‘the post of’, or ‘the role of’ we use zero article before a job title.
Dr. Sheldon has taken on the post of Academic Director.
Articles in case of Ordinals
We use ‘the’ with ordinals (i.e. first, second, third etc.).
She was the first guest to arrive to the party.
The third season of the sitcom ‘Friends’ was the best.
We do not use any article before cardinal numbers (i.e. one, two, three etc.).
Act three of this novel is very interesting. (three – cardinal number)
The third act of this novel is very interesting. (third – ordinal number)
Replacement of per/one
We can use a/an:
instead of ‘one’
I have one pen. (correct)
I have a pen. (correct)
to say one of a type
He eats a meal which is not nutritious.
Birds of a feather flock together.
in place of ‘per’.
This bike runs eighteen kilometres per litre. (correct)
This bike runs eighteen kilometres a litre. (correct)
He earns fifty thousand per month. (correct)
He earns fifty thousand a month. (correct)
Articles with Fractions
‘a’ is used before fraction part of mixed fractions.
6 ½ liter - six and a half liter
5 ¼ meter - five and a quarter meter
Articles with verb acting as a noun
We use ‘a/an’ before a verb, when that verb is used as a noun.
Let us have a talk with them.
I am going for a walk.
Do you need a ride?
Articles with many/rather/quite/such
We use ‘a/an’ before a singular noun if it comes after many/rather/quite/such.
Many a man died in World War II.
It is rather a pity that he could not come along with us.
It is quiet an impossible task.
That was such a rash thing to do.
Articles in Phrases
We use ‘a/an’ in some phrases too.
For example: in a fix, in a hurry, in a nutshell, make a noise, make a foot, keep a secret, as a rule, at a stone’s throw, a short while ago, at a loss, take a fancy to, take an interest in, take a liking, a pity, tell a lie.
What you just told us was all a lie.
I expect the students of this class to not make a noise while the principal is taking the rounds.
Extra Books and Tools
Though the matter on our website is in-depth and comprehensive enough for the demands of most of the aptitude exams, but it may feel daunting for the same reasons. Moreover, some learners prefer paperback books over websites.
So, if you are a beginner level English learner, and prefer books, you may explore the following English Grammar books too.
1. Wren & Martin - This book has been around for long and is still considered one of the best. Though many concepts have not been dealt with in much depth here, but beginners may find it a breeze to read. Once you are done with it, the content on our website will work as a rich add-on. If you are getting this book, make sure you get the key to its exercises too.
Links for readers from USA, UK, Canada, and other countries:
High School English Grammar and Composition Paperback
Key to Wren and Martin
Link for Indian readers: Wren and Martin
2. More advanced learners may refer to the following books. However, buy them only if you must. Most of your English Grammar learning needs will easily be met by our website.
A. Essential English Grammar by Raymond Murphy
Link for readers from USA, UK, Canada, and other countries: Essential Grammar in Use - with Answers
Link for Indian readers: Essential English Grammar
B. Intermediate English Grammar by Raymond Murphy
Link for readers from USA, UK, Canada, and other countries: English Grammar in Use - with Answers
Link for Indian readers: Intermediate English Grammar
C. Advanced English Grammar by Martin Hewings
Link for readers from USA, UK, Canada, and other countries: Advanced Grammar in Use - with Answers
Link for Indian readers: Advanced English Grammar
So much so for Englsh Grammar. But what about Comprehension skills and Vocabulary?
We strongly believe that Comprehension skills and Vocabulary are more a matter of practice. The more you read, the better you will become in them. In fact, this will help you in Grammar too. Afterall Grammar rules are just in the nature of temporary scaffholding - the goal is to read, write and speak a language without consciously remembering even a single Grammar rule.
So, we suggest you to read vividly. Ideally, carry some tool with you that you may refer so as to learn the meaning of any word that is new to you. There are many ways you may go about it.
* The old method: Carry a good dictionary with you. But who does?
* Download a Thesauraus app on your mobile or just google it. Better, but we still need to stop reading, open the app, type and then search. Boring!
The methods mentioned above kill the joy of reading. Who wants to stop reading in the midst of an interesting plot and look for the meaning of a word? And if you are a lazy soul like me, Oh man! No chance!
That's why I prefer to read on gadgets like Kindle. We may just tap on any word and see its meaning there and then. It's also not taxing on the eyes.
Link for readers from USA, UK, Canada, and other countries:
Link for Indian readers:
There are a multitude of Kindle models and versions available. So, you may have to do some research on your own regarding which model serves your need the best. Though, any model will meet our basic reading needs.
If you guys know about any more such books, gadgets and technologies that are awesome and may help English learners, do share 😇