Indefinite articles

Well in a previous post we looked at the English definite article ‘the’. In this post I want to go over the English indefinite article a/an.

Quick re-cap: We use ‘the’ to talk about something known to the speaker and the listener.

However, when discussing something(s) unknown we use a/an instead. Why?

Have you seen the cat? (Assumes both parties KNOW which cat)

Could you email me the information? (Both parties have already discussed said information prior to this request)

I got the email, thanks. (This shows both parties’ awareness of email communication)

These are examples of ‘known’ exchanges between speaker/listener or reader/writer.

Whereas the following: There’s a huge spider in the kitchen! A ferocious dog was on the loose in the park. I need a strong coffee. are not discussing something ‘known’ between participants but something ‘unknown’ instead. Imagine swapping the indefinite articles (a) for (the). Read them aloud. Don’t they sound a little odd?

Imagine if you got home from walking your dog and began relaying some tale about a crazy dog that you’d seen being a nuisance, terrorising other dogs, without its owner on site, and you began the story with “The crazy dog was…”

The other person, if they did NOT already know about such a troublesome dog, would most likely ask for more information. Why? Because they are clueless about which dog in particular you mean.

So the correct way to start would be with “A crazy dog was…”

One last thing for this post, but not the last on articles, so keep checking in for future posts.

If nouns are countable and singular, we use a/an: there’s a huge spider in the kitchen; I need a strong coffee.

But if nouns are uncountable or if they are plural, we don’t use articles at all: he couldn’t help because he was really scared of spiders. (not – … he was scared of a spiders)

And yep, I shall be putting out posts on countable and uncountable nouns very soon. If you liked this post, please share with others (don’t hog everything for yourselves! LOL)


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