A / AN

Use 'a' with nouns starting with a consonant (letters that are not vowels),
'an' with nouns starting with a vowel (a,e,i,o,u)


A boy
An apple
A car
An orange
A house
An opera

An before an h mute - an hour, an honour.
A before u and eu when they sound like 'you': a european, a university, a unit

The indefinite article is used:

·         to refer to something for the first time:
An elephant and a mouse fell in love.
Would you like a drink?
I've finally got a good job.

·         to refer to a particular member of a group or class


o        with names of jobs:
John is a doctor.
Mary is training to be an engineer.
He wants to be a dancer.

o        with nationalities and religions:
John is an Englishman.
Kate is a Catholic.

o        with musical instruments:
Sherlock Holmes was playing a violin when the visitor arrived.
(BUT to describe the activity we say "He plays the violin.")

o        with names of days:
I was born on a Thursday

·         to refer to a kind of, or example of something:
the mouse had a tiny nose
the elephant had a long trunk
it was a very strange car

·         with singular nouns, after the words 'what' and 'such':
What a shame!
She's such a beautiful girl.

·         meaning 'one', referring to a single object or person:
I'd like an orange and two lemons please.
The burglar took a diamond necklace and a valuable painting.

Notice also that we usually say a hundred, a thousand, a million.

NOTE: that we use 'one' to add emphasis or to contrast with other numbers:
I don't know one person who likes eating elephant meat.
We've got six computers but only one printer.


There is no article:

·         with names of countries (if singular)
Germany is an important economic power.
He's just returned from Zimbabwe.
(But: I'm visiting the United States next week.)

·         with the names of languages
French is spoken in Tahiti.
English uses many words of Latin origin.
Indonesian is a relatively new language.

·         with the names of meals.
Lunch is at midday.
Dinner is in the evening.
Breakfast is the first meal of the day.

·         with people's names (if singular):
John's coming to the party.
George King is my uncle.
(But: we're having lunch with the Morgans tomorrow.)

·         with titles and names:
Prince Charles is Queen Elizabeth's son.
President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
Dr. Watson was Sherlock Holmes' friend.
(But: the Queen of England, the Pope.)

·         After the 's possessive case:
His brother's car.
Peter's house.

·         with professions:
Engineering is a useful career.
He'll probably go into medicine.

·         with names of shops:
I'll get the card at Smith's.
Can you go to Boots for me?

·         with years:
1948 was a wonderful year.
Do you remember 1995?

·         With uncountable nouns:
Rice is the main food in Asia.
Milk is often added to tea in England.
War is destructive.

·         with the names of individual mountains, lakes and islands:
Mount McKinley is the highest mountain in Alaska.
She lives near Lake Windermere.
Have you visited Long Island?

·         with most names of towns, streets, stations and airports:
Victoria Station is in the centre of London.
Can you direct me to Bond Street?
She lives in Florence.
They're flying from Heathrow.

·         in some fixed expressions, for example: