Difference between revisions of "Indefinite article"

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An '''indefinite article''' is a [[grammatical article]] used to express [[indefiniteness]] (i.e. lack of [[definiteness]]).  In [[English]], there are two of these; 'a' and 'an'.  They mark that the following noun is both (1) [[countable]] and (2) [[singular]].
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An '''indefinite article''' is a [[grammatical article]] used to express [[indefiniteness]] (i.e. lack of [[definiteness]]).  In [[English]], there are two of these; 'a' and 'an'.  They provide a [[grammatical marker]] that the following noun is both (1) [[countable]] and (2) [[singular]].
  
'A' is generally used before [[consonant sound]]s while 'an' is used before [[vowel sound]]s.  Note that this reflects sounds not [[spelling]].  So, for example we say "an hour" not *"a hour" and "a university" not "*an university".
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'A' is generally used before [[consonant sound]]s while 'an' is used before [[vowel sound]]s.  Note that this reflects [[vocal sound]]s rather than [[spelling]].  So, for example we say "an hour" not *"a hour" and "a university" not "*an university".
  
'A' has a strong form /eɪ/ but a more common weak form /ə/ ([[schwa]]); 'an' has a strong form /æn/ and a weak form /ən/.
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'A' has a [[strong form]] /eɪ/ but a much more common [[weak form]] /ə/ ([[schwa]]); 'an' has a strong form /æn/ and a weak form /ən/.
  
 
Low level learners will often say "a" when they need to say "an" - this is usually worth correcting.  Intermediate and advanced speakers sometimes [[slip]] and use 'a' before a vowel sound, particularly if there is a [[pause]] between the article and noun; this includes native speakers, so it's probably not worth correcting if it's a slip.  Correct in writing.
 
Low level learners will often say "a" when they need to say "an" - this is usually worth correcting.  Intermediate and advanced speakers sometimes [[slip]] and use 'a' before a vowel sound, particularly if there is a [[pause]] between the article and noun; this includes native speakers, so it's probably not worth correcting if it's a slip.  Correct in writing.
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[[Chinese]]-speaking students will often drop articles because Chinese doesn't have them.   
 
[[Chinese]]-speaking students will often drop articles because Chinese doesn't have them.   
  
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Contrast the [[definite article]].
  
 
[[category:Grammatical articles]]
 
[[category:Grammatical articles]]

Latest revision as of 11:18, 16 January 2020

An indefinite article is a grammatical article used to express indefiniteness (i.e. lack of definiteness). In English, there are two of these; 'a' and 'an'. They provide a grammatical marker that the following noun is both (1) countable and (2) singular.

'A' is generally used before consonant sounds while 'an' is used before vowel sounds. Note that this reflects vocal sounds rather than spelling. So, for example we say "an hour" not *"a hour" and "a university" not "*an university".

'A' has a strong form /eɪ/ but a much more common weak form /ə/ (schwa); 'an' has a strong form /æn/ and a weak form /ən/.

Low level learners will often say "a" when they need to say "an" - this is usually worth correcting. Intermediate and advanced speakers sometimes slip and use 'a' before a vowel sound, particularly if there is a pause between the article and noun; this includes native speakers, so it's probably not worth correcting if it's a slip. Correct in writing.


Chinese-speaking students will often drop articles because Chinese doesn't have them.

Contrast the definite article.