A, An and The are called Articles.
NOTE: Formerly Articles were classed as a separate part of speech: but now they are classed as Adjectives.
A and An are called Indefinite Articles, because they do not point out any particular person or thing: a book= any book, a girl = any girl.
They are used only before singular countable nouns.
The is called the Definite Article, because it points to some particular person or thing: the boy = the boy of whom, we are speaking or who is known: the girls; the air: the grass.
The definite article can be used before singular or plural nouns, whether countable or uncountable.
As a general rule, a Common Noun in the singular number should have an article before it. Thus, we cannot say, "I have seen tiger" - we should say, "I have seen a or the tiger."
But a Common Noun in the plural does not require the unless we want to particularize. Boys love games ; but The boys( those already referred to, or those before us) are playing.
Uses of A
"A" is used before
a consonant : a boy, a word, a B.A., etc.
such vowels that have the sound of "you": a ewe, a useful thing, a unit, a European etc.
"o", when it sounds like "w": such a one, a one-rupee note. etc.
"An" is used before
a vowel : an eye, an idiot, an ox, etc.
a consonant beginning with a vowel sound: an M. A., an M.D., an honest boy, an hour.
Other uses of 'A' and 'An'
Generalizing "A" or "An"--A or An is sometimes used before a noun to indicate a class : A son should obey his father. An ant is an industrious creature.
A is used as a preposition---He went a hunting (= on hunting). Potatoes sell at one kilo a (per) rupee. I get sixty rupee a month.
A is used in the sense of a certain: A Mr. Bose came to see me.
A and An are also used in a number of phrases: to have a cold, to take an interest in, in a hurry.
A is sometimes used to mean a single or any: There was not a man to support him, though no one spoke a word against him openly.
A sometimes means one like: He thinks he is a Sarat Chandra.
A is used before other determinatives like few, little, lot of: There are a few apples on the table. There are a lot of books in the library. There is a little water in the jug.
NOTE: It is also possible to say: 'few apples', 'little water' but such constructions convey different meaning.
A or An is also used in certain exclamatory sentences beginning with 'what' : What a thing to say ! What an awful comment to make!
Rules for the use of "The":
The is used before:
(a) The names of rivers (the Ganga), gulfs (the Persian Gulf ), seas (the Black Sea), mountain ranges (the Himalayas), groups of islands' ( the Andamans), ships (the Viceroy), newspapers (the Statesman), descriptive geographical or significant names ( the Punjab, the Deccan), the name of a country that is a union of smaller entities (the U. K., the West Indies, the U.S.S.R.), the, name of a country that is plural in form (the United States, the Netherlands), name of holy books (the Geeta) and names of the noted public places and important events (The Secretariat , the High Court, the . Senate House, the French Revolution the Reformation), trains, planes and spacecraft ( the Punjab Mail, the Queen Mary, the Skylab).
Note: 1.But not before a single mountain or a single island: Everest, Java.
2.We say The Paradise Lost of Milton,' but 'Milton's Paradise Lost% ' The Twelfth Night but 'Shakespeare's Twelfth Night'.
3. We say parliament but The member of the parliament.
Singular Common Nouns to represent a whole class: The dog is a faithful animal. The cow eats grass.
Nouns to point out a person or thing known or already referred to: Come into the garden (the garden before the speaker).
I went to the club. I do not like the fellow (the fellow already referred to). (Familiar 'The').
Singular nouns referring to things of which only one exists: the earth, the sun. the sky, the east.
Superlatives: He is the best of them.
Comparatives, as adverbs: The more the merrier. (Instrumental 'The'.)
A national name with a plural notion, to denote a people collectively. Without the, such a noun indicates the language of the people.
The English (=the English people) are industrious. English (= the language) is a rich language.
The French (=people of France) fought hard.
I am learning French (=the language).
Adjectives with a plural notion, to indicate a whole class of persons . But we should not combine both the forms.
The rich (= rich men) are not always happy.
Rich men are not always happy.
The rich man is not always happy.
But not The rich men are not always happy.
Common Nouns as a substitute for the possessive Adjective:
I struck him on the (his) head ; He stared at me in the (my) face. (Possessive 'The'.)
(j) Nouns defined by adjectives or adjectival phrases or clauses: the black dog; the immortal Kalidas ; The men who came here yesterday are my friends.
(k) Some Adjectives and Common Nouns in the singular number to express an abstract idea:
Do not leap in the dark.
The future (= futurity) is unknown to us.
Check the beast (= animal nature) in you.
The mother (motherly feelings) in her could not bear the sight.
The father (= fatherly affection) in him could not bear the sight.
(1) Adjectives, to denote particular parts of things : He likes the yellow of an egg. He entered the thick of the forest.
Ordinal numbers written in letters ; but when written in Roman notation, no article is used : George the Fifth (but, George V) ; Chapter the Second (but, Chapter 11).
Nouns, to indicate a profession: He joined the Bar or the Church (became a lawyer or a clergyman).
The names of musical instruments: He plays the violin. But, he has a violin.
The plural names of families: the Browns, the Boses.
Proper, Material and Abstract nouns to make them Common : Kalidas is the Shakespeare of India. The water of the Ganga.
The is sometimes used before a noun to give it the force of a superlative: He is the singer of the day.
Omission of Articles:
No article is normally used:
(a) Before Proper, Material, or Abstract Nouns, except when they are particularised: Ashok (but, the king Ashok), Homer (but, the Homer of India), gold (but, the gold of Australia), honesty (hut, the honesty of the boy).
(b) Before Common Nouns in the plural number, except when they are particularised: Dogs bark ; Cowseat grass; but, the dogs of my house ; the cows that I bought.
(c) Often before a Common or Collective Noun, preceded by the phrases kind or species or sort of or when used in its widest sense:
What kind or sort of man is he? Man, bird and beast-- all are subject to death. Always keep good company. But we say: The banyan is a kind of tree. Malaria is caused by a species of mosquito.
Before man in the sense of mankind, and before father, mother, and baby when a particular one of them is meant
Man is mortal. Father or Mother (i.e. my father or mother) says. so. Cook, nurse etc. take no article in the sense of 'our cook', 'our nurse'. Cook has given notice.
In many idiomatic phrases: To take root (to be firmly established); to call to mind (to remember); to give ear to (to hear) ; to set foot on; by boat; at night; send word; at home; to attend school; by land; on horseback, etc.
Before the words school, church, prison, hospital, college, court, market and a few other names of localities, besides table and bed. These take no article when we think of the use made of the building or object :
Ram has gone to school/college (to learn). Ram has gone to the school/college (not to learn but just to see the place). Rabin once hit a ball right over the top of the school (building). They took him to hospital (for treatment). They went to the hospital (just to see the place).
Before the names of squares, buildings, parks, streets, etc. consisting of a proper name (either a person or a place):
Buckingham Palace, Curzon Park, Rashbehari Avenue.
Before the names of meals (as a part of the daily routine): We have dinner at 8 p.m.
(i) Before names of seasons and festivals, though the definite article may also be found in certain general statements: Winter is the best time for picnics. The first time I was in Kashmir was in the Autumn.
Before titles when they are used in apposition to a Noun : Mr Bose, Principal of our college, is a well known man.
Before complements to factitive verbs: Sumit was elected captain. They made him President.
Note: 'In writing the date we nowadays omit the and of but in reading that date we generally put them in: March 10th ( The tenth of March) , 16th August ( The sixteenth of August or August the sixteenth),
Repetition of the Article:
(a) When two or more Nouns joined by and refer to the same thing, the Article is used only before the first ; but if they refer to separate things, the Article should be repeated before each
The Secretary and the Treasurer have done this (two separate men). The Secretary and Treasurer has done this (the same man).
Write either The first and the second boy' or ' The first and second boys' to refer to two boys.
In a comparison, if two Nouns refer to the same object, the Article is used before the first Noun only. But if the Nouns refer to different objects, the Article is used before each Noun:
The same person He is a better poet than speaker. He is a better poet than pleader.
Different person He is a better poet than a speaker (would make).
He is a better teacher than a pleader (would make).
When two or more Adjectives refer to the same Noun, the Article is used before the first:
I have a brown and white cat (one cat ).
When two or more Adjectives refer to different Nouns, the Article is used before each Adjective:
I have a brown and a white cat (2 cats ).