Definite Vs Indefinite Articles

Articles can be tricky, whether that be indefinite or definite, and the question of when to use each can also cause a pause. Indefinite articles are “a/an”. They are used when you aren’t referring to any specific person, place, or thing. You would use indefinite articles with singular nouns such as a child, an elephant, or a television. You wouldn’t use indefinite articles with possessive pronouns, demonstratives or cardinal numbers. Examples of that would be my shirt, this car, or one person. You would use “one” or more instead of an indefinite article when the number is important. For example with the sentence: There is only one airport here.

The definite article “the” is used to pinpoint a specific person or thing. For example, referring to “the lamp”, instead of “a lamp”, identifies which lamp is being referred to. Definite articles are also used to identify something immediately, such as seeing the new Brad Pitt movie. It is also used when referencing something that is unique, the names of instruments, seas, rivers, oceans, mountain ranges, cardinal points, and also deserts.

No article is used in instances such as referring to general ideas, plurals, or uncountable nouns. An example of this would be “Mexican food is spicy”. The names of people, books, and plays also do not require articles unless one is a part of the title. Meals, sports, games, planets, lakes, single islands, continents, and mountains also need no articles. Some countries also use no articles, but there are exceptions to the rule.

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