Articles point out nouns. Articles are either indefinite (a, an) or definite (the). There are several rules for using these articles.
- Use a in front of consonant sounds and use an before vowel sounds:
a card an orange
a radio an answer
a button an entrance
a thread an invitation
a nightmare an uncle
- Use a or an in front of singular count nouns (a or an mean “any one“):
I ate an egg.
James planted a tree.
- Do not use a or an with non-count nouns:
not this: Selena filled the tank with
but this: Selena filled the tank with gasoline.
- Use the before both singular and plural count nouns whose specific identity is known to the reader:
The dress with the beads on it is my party dress.
Most of the movies I rent are science fiction films.
- Use the before non-count nouns only when they are specifically identified:
not this: I need
the help. (Whose help? What help? The non-count noun help is not specifically identified.)
but this: I need the help of a good plumber. (Now help is specifically identified.)
not this: Kindness of the people who took me in was remarkable. (The non-count noun kindness is specifically identified, so you need the.)
but this: The kindness of the people who took me in was remarkable.