Grammar Tip – A, an and the

I am often asked if we still need to use articles (a, an, and the), particularly when writing an email. The answer is a resounding yes. Without them, a writer looks sloppy.

The articles, a, an, and the, are considered adjectives and they signal that a noun follows.

Example

Are you going to the store? (Store in this case is a noun, so the article the is placed in front of the word.)

Are you going to store the extra binders: (Store in this case is a verb. It does not have an article in front.)

A is called an indefinite article because it refers to a general noun. The is a definite article referring to a specific group.

A report (any report)?The report (a specific report)

An is also an indefinite article. It is placed in front of a noun that has a vowel sound. Note: It is not the spelling of the word, but the sound of the word that determines the use of an.

Use the article a before all consonant sounds and before words beginning with a sounded h, long u, and o with the sound of w (as in one).

Examples

A university
An hour
A hotel
An M.B.A. degree?A unit
An honour
A one-week vacation

Here’s the exception to the rule: Don’t use a or an after the word of.

Incorrect

What kind of a position did you apply for?

Correct

What kind of position did you apply for?

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