Articles, "a" the indefinite article
This is the fourth in a series of blog posts about articles.
In this blog post we’ll look into using “a”, the indefinite article, in more detail.
Before we can use a correctly we need look at countable and uncountable nouns. A countable noun is a thing you can count and an uncountable noun is a thing you can’t count.
- I visited Le Louvre, in Paris, in just one day, but I think you need two or three days to see everything.
- “One sheep, two sheep, three sheep”, I thought to myself, but I couldn’t fall asleep.
- As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives, …
- Two heads are better than one.
- One huge delicious creamy chocolate cake, two huge delicious creamy chocolate cakes.
We use a and an with singular countable nouns.
- I saw a black cat.
- The lesson lasts about an hour.
- “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” William Shakespeare.
- Excuse me, do you have a pen?
- There’s a time and a place for everything.
We don’t use a or an with plural nouns.
- I saw two black cats.
- The lesson lasts about 60 minutes.
- “Better than the strength of men and horses is our wisdom.” Xenophanes.
- “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Jane Austen
- There are times and places I’ll never forget.
We don’t use a or an with uncountable nouns.
- Why do Britons put milk in their tea?
- Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
- The love of money is the root of all evil.
- “Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” Anton Chekhov
- I bake a delicious chocolate cake. It’s made from eggs, cocoa, sugar, prunes, crême fraîche, dark chocolate and brandy.
With uncountable nouns we use some, any and a quantity of.
Some means an unspecified quantity of something. We generally use it in positive sentences.
- I’ve got some free time this afternoon.
- There was some trouble at work.
- Do you want some coffee?
- There’s some water in the jug.
- The teacher gave the student some advice.
Any means an unspecified quantity of something. We generally use in negative sentences.
- I haven’t got any free time this afternoon.
- There wasn’t any trouble at work.
- I don’t want any coffee.
- There isn’t any water in the jug.
- The teacher didn’t give the student any advice.
A quantity of is used for a specific amount of something.
- I can spare you a little bit of time this afternoon.
- There was a spot of trouble at work.
- Do you want a cup of coffee?
- There’s a drop of water in the jug.
- The teacher gave the student a piece of advice.