Dr Julia Miller
School of Education
University of Adelaide
Copyright © 2012 The University of
Adelaide
Choosing the right article
Singular, countable noun
Plural or uncountable noun
Is it definite?
Is it definite?
Yes
No
Yes
No
the
a
the
0
The above chart is based on information in: Master, P 1986, Science, medicine and technology:
English grammar and technical writing, Prentice-Hall, New Jersey.
Use the when the speaker and the
hearer share knowledge about a noun
• Ordinals and superlatives – the most famous lady
detective of the twenty-first century
• Some countries – the United Kingdom, the Philippines
• Decades – the 1960s
• A unique place – the northern hemisphere, the equator
• Instruments people play – she plays the violin
• Unique adjectives – the only, the same
• Emphasis – the Sherlock Holmes (not another one)
• Shared knowledge – the famous detective (whose name
is recognised by many people)
• Relative clauses – The people who contact Ms Parrot,
the cases she has solved
• Specific and followed by ‘of’ – The case of
• A noun associated with a previous noun – an owl/The
bird
• Adjectives used as nouns – the poor, the common good
• Plural nouns preceded by ‘of’ – some of the cases
• Many organisations – the Grammar Survival Fund
• Representative of a class – the detective should use
their skills
Use a/an for singular, countable nouns
• First mention of many singular, countable nouns –
a parrot, an owl
• Rates – five times a day, $1000 an hour
• Jobs – she has been a detective for 30 years
• Part of a whole – a piece of cake
• Positive few or little – a few
• Exclamations – what a strange problem!
• Such a – such a fee
a or an?
• Use a before a consonant sound – a European, a strange
problem, a detective
• Use an before a vowel sound – an Australian, an egg, an hour,
an owl
Don’t use an article for:
• Languages – English, French, Portuguese
• Plural nouns preceded by many, some etc. – many people,
some unusual problems
• Indefinite plural nouns – detectives generally, games,
mysteries
• Indefinite uncountable nouns – fun, attention, modesty
• Negative little or few – little information
• Plural nouns preceded by numbers – thirty years
Is this correct? I read a book. Book was exciting.
a) Yes – I read a book. Book
was exciting.
b) No – I read a book. The
book was exciting.
c) No – I read book. Book
was exciting.
d) No – I read a book. A
book was exciting.
Correct answer: b –
I read a book. The book was exciting.
Complete this sentence: earth is planet.
a) The earth is planet.
b) The earth is a planet.
c) earth is a planet.
d) An earth is the planet.
Correct answer: b –
The earth is a planet.
Are the articles in this sentence correct?
The cake I bought today was the only chocolate cake there.
a) Yes – The cake I bought
today was the only chocolate
cake there.
b) No – Cake I bought today
was an only chocolate cake
there.
c) No – The cake I bought
today was a only chocolate
cake there.
d) No – Cakes I bought today
was the only chocolate cake
there.
Correct answer: a –
The cake I bought today was the only chocolate
cake there.
Is this sentence correct? She plays violin for the homeless.
a) Yes – It’s correct.
b) No – She plays the
violin for the homeless.
c) No – She plays violins
for homeless.
d) No – She plays violin
for homeless.
Correct answer: b –
She plays the violin for the homeless.
What two words are missing in this sentence?
Australian dollar is currently stronger than Euro.
a) the/a
b) a/a
c) an/an
d) the/the
Correct answer: d –
The Australian dollar is currently stronger
than the Euro.
What two words are missing in this sentence?
I went to bakery. Cakes were delicious.
a) a/0
b) a/A
c) an/The
d) a/The
Correct answer: d –
I went to a bakery. The cakes were delicious.
Is this sentence grammatically correct?
They earn $80 the hour.
a) No – They earn
$80 hour.
b) No – They earn
$80 an hour.
c) No – They earn
$80 a hour.
d) Yes – They earn
$80 the hour.
Correct answer: b –
They earn $80 an hour.
Is this sentence grammatically correct?
Would you like piece of cake?
a) No – Would you like
piece of a cake?
b) Yes – Would you like
piece of cake?
c) No – Would you like a
piece of cake?
d) No – Would you like a
pieces of cake?
Correct answer: c –
Would you like a piece of cake?
Is this sentence grammatically correct?
An university is the interesting place to study.
a) No – An university is a
interesting place to study.
b) No – A university is an
interesting place to study.
c) Yes – An university is the
interesting place to study.
d) No – A university is the
interesting place to study.
Correct answer: b –
A university is an interesting place to study.
Is this sentence grammatically correct?
1970s were the best years of the twentieth century.
a) No – 1970s were the
best years of twentieth
century
b) No – The 1970s were
the best years of the
twentieth century
c) Yes – 1970s were the
best years of the twentieth
century
d) No – The 1970s were
the best years of twentieth
century
Correct answer: b –
The 1970s were the best years of the twentieth century.
Is this sentence grammatically correct?
Some of people (in this room) don’t like quiz shows!
a) No – It can only be
Some of the people
b) No – It can only be
Some people
c) Yes – Some of people
d) No – Some people or
Some of the people
Correct answer: d –
Either Some people or
Some of the people (in this room)
Is this sentence grammatically correct?
France, the United Kingdom, Portugal and the Netherlands are
all in Europe.
a) No – The France, the
United Kingdom, the
Portugal, the Netherlands,
the Europe
c) Yes – It’s correct.
b) No – France, United
Kingdom, Portugal,
Netherlands, Europe
d) No – France, the United
Kingdom, Portugal,
Netherlands, the Europe
Correct answer: c – It’s correct.
Correct this sentence as necessary: A/The library is a place
where you find books.
a) Both are possible:
A/The library is a place
where you find books.
b) Only ‘the’ is possible:
The library is the place
where you find books.
c) Only ‘a’ is possible:
A library is a place where
you find books.
d) Neither is possible:
Libraries are places where
you find books.
Correct answer: a – Both are possible.
A/The library is a place where you find books.
Choosing the right article
Singular, countable noun
Plural or uncountable noun
Is it definite?
Is it definite?
Yes
No
Yes
No
the
a
the
0
The above chart is based on information in: Master, P 1986, Science, medicine and technology:
English grammar and technical writing, Prentice-Hall, New Jersey.
Support for this resource was provided by the Australian
Government Office for Learning and Teaching. The views
expressed in this resource do not necessarily reflect the
views of the Australian Government Office for Learning and
Teaching.
Dr Julia Miller
School of Education
University of Adelaide
Copyright © 2012 The University of
Adelaide
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