John’s English Blog

I’m John, an English language teacher. Welcome to my blog.

Definite and indefinite articles

Articles, abbreviations, ye, headlines, enough, abstract nouns


This is the fourteenth and final blog post in a series about articles. I recommend you read the previous blog posts in this series before you read this one. In the previous article we looked at titles, illnesses, exclamations, the body and meals. In this blog post we’ll look at initialisms, acronyms, ye, headlines and enough.

initialisms and acronyms

Initialisms and acronyms are formed from the initial letters of the words in a phrase.

An initialism is spelt out and takes the or a/an.

  • The EU is an economic and political union.
  • The BBC was founded in 1922.
  • Applicant’s must have an MA in linguistics.
  • Please attach it as a PDF.
  • I’ll send you an SMS.

An acronym is pronounced as a word and if it’s the name of an organization then we leave out the and a/an. Acronyms are often spelt with an initial capital letter.

  • NATO was founded in 1949.
  • Nato’s headquarters are in Brussels.
  • UNESCO added Stonehenge to the list of World Heritage Sites in 1986.
  • “Three new sites have been awarded world heritage status by Unesco,” The Guardian.
  • Have you tried the meatballs at IKEA?

Some initialisms are exceptions.

  • MI5 is is responsible for national security in the UK.
  • Winston Churchill was a strong supporter of SOE.

If the abbreviation or acronym is pronounced as a word, but is treated as an ordinary noun the we use the and a/an.

  • When are the SATs in your daughter’s school?
    SATs: standard attainment tests.
  • You need a SIM for your mobile.
  • Put the CD in the stereo!
  • What’s the ETA for your flight?

Here’s an exception. FAQ is pronounced as a word, but takes the.
If you can think of any more examples please leave a comment.

  • If you have any questions please check the FAQ.

Some acronyms are now established words and are treated just like normal nouns.

  • A laser emits a beam of light.
  • Air traffic control uses radar to locate aeroplanes.
  • Companies House is a quango.
  • Before I had broadband I used a modem.
  • What caused the snafu at the airport?

Phonetic abbreviations look like initialisms or acronyms but aren’t.

  • Are you coming to the BBQ? There’ll be lots of burnt meat.
  • Here’s an IOU for £50.
  • Let’s wait for the K9 to pick up the scent.


Ye is sometimes used to imitate an old written form of the. Early Modern English used the letter thorn “þ” which sounds the same as “th” so the was written þe. You will see it sometimes in the names of pubs and other buildings. It can be pronounced /ðiː/ or / jiː/.

  • Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a cosy pub just by Fleet Street.
  • Ye Olde Mitre is a traditional pub in central London.
  • Sir Christopher Wren built Ye Olde Watling and used it during the construction of St Paul’s Cathedral.


In newspaper headlines we usually leave out the and a/an.

  • Man bites dog.
  • Commuters face rush hour chaos.
  • UK leads Europe in obesity.
  • Police to sue government over cuts.
  • Unemployment falls to 40 year low.


Sometimes we use the instead of enough.

  • If only I had the courage to quit my job.
  • I don’t even have the money to buy a coffee.
  • Do you think he has the fitness to run a Marathon?
  • If you think you have the smarts to solve it, by all means go ahead.
  • Bob lacked the sense to know when to stop.

abstract nouns

Sometimes we use a/an with uncountable nouns often when we limit them.

  • You have an excellent knowledge of definite and indefinite articles.
  • It gave me the change to get an education.
  • He was intuitive and possessed a keen intelligence.
  • This job requires a knowledge of computing.
  • It was a time of innocence.

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of the series about articles. If there is something I’ve not covered please ask me a question in the comments and I’ll update the article.


Back to the article

  1. Sorry, I don’t have the money for a taxi.
  2. He possessed a greatness and warmth that touched everyone.
  3. We’re looking for someone with a PhD.
  4. an IBAN is very useful for international payments.
  5. knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand.
  6. “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” Shakespeare.
  7. Do you have the motivation to study at the weekend?
  8. James Bond works for MI6.
  9. Pound plunges after Leave vote.
  10. the UN was founded in 1945.
  11. You should choose a teacher of English with a CELTA.
  12. the WHO is the directing and coordinating authority on international health within the United Nations’ system.
  13. Applicants must have a knowledge of finance.
  14. the VAT on most goods in the UK is 20%.
  15. Let’s meet at ye Olde Cherry Tree on Friday at 8.
  16. That yacht is huge. It must have a radar.
  17. restaurant hands back Michelin star.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. If you have any comments, questions or corrections please write them below.

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