A and an

related topics
{language, word, form}
{son, year, death}
{build, building, house}
{day, year, event}
{@card@, make, design}
{god, call, give}
{system, computer, user}
{land, century, early}
{acid, form, water}
{food, make, wine}

The articles in English include the definite article the and the indefinite articles a and an.


General usage

In English, nouns must in most cases be preceded by an article that specifies the definiteness of the noun. The definite article is the in all cases, while indefiniteness is expressed with a or an for singular nouns or the zero article (i.e., the absence of an article) for plural or non-count nouns.

For example,

Here, youngest girl is definite, meaning that the listener will know which girl is the one, while books and apple are indefinite, as they are being mentioned for the first time.

English grammar requires that the appropriate article, if any, be used with each noun, with several exceptions:[1]

  • nouns with another non-number determiner such as this, each, my, no, or a

In most cases, the article is the first word of its noun phrase, preceding all other adjectives.[2] There are only a few exceptions—e.g., quite a story, too great a loss, all the time, such a nice man.

In alphabetizing titles and phrases, articles are usually excluded from consideration, since being so common makes them more of a hindrance than a help in finding a desired item. For example, The Comedy of Errors is alphabetized before A Midsummer Night's Dream, because the and a are ignored and comedy alphabetizes before midsummer. In an index, the former work might be written "Comedy of Errors, The", with the article moved to the end.

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