Indefinite Article: 'A' and 'an'

Article ‘A’

Articles have been categorized into two parts i.e. the Definite Article and Indefinite Articles. Articles are always followed by a noun/noun phrase and use of ‘a’ makes a noun/noun phrase unspecific/indefinite. Therefore, article ‘a’ is called Indefinite Article.

Article ‘a’ is used with consonant sound (not letter) and is only used with singular countable noun and units of uncountable noun. We use it before a noun when we are not sure that whether reader/listener knows with certainty about what we are trying to refer. It is used before non-specified singular nouns.

Article 'A' is used

With Consonant sound (a + consonant sound)

  • A box
  • A UNESCO
  • A horse

To show Frequency with time, distance or weight

  • Thrice a week
  • Twice a month
  • Twenty dollar a kilo

With Expressions or with some phrases dealing with number

  • At a glance
  • Take a rest
  • A few/A lot of/A dozen/ A few/A little/A million/A hundred

With Units of Uncountable noun

  • A cup of coffee/tea/water/milk
  • A pinch of baking soda/salt/sugar
  • A plate of fried chicken/mutton/fish

With English vowels which sometimes sound consonant

  • A European
  • A University
  • A one-eyed man
  • An umbrella
  • An umbrella

After words like: what, quite, many, such                         

  • What a beautiful art
  • Many a soldier is injured.
  • Such a pitiful situation!
  • They created quite a dramatic scene.
  • Many a boy is ill.

With Collective Expressions

  • A bunch of keys
  • A galaxy of stars
  • A shoal of fish
  • A bundle of sticks
  • A brood of chickens

Article ‘An’

Article ‘an’ is also Indefinite Article. But it is used with vowel sound (not letter) and is only used with singular countable noun and units of uncountable noun. We use it before a noun when we are not sure that whether reader/listener knows with certainty about what we are trying to refer.

Article 'An' is used

With vowel sound

  • An elephant
  • An owl
  • An old man
  • An ox
  • An apple

Before Abbreviation which begins with consonant letters but have vowel sound

  • An M.B.A
  • An M.L.A
  • An SOS
  • An M.A.
  • An N.Y.T reporter

With Singular Countable Nouns starting with consonant letter but have vowel sound

  • An hour
  • An heir
  • An honest clerk
  • An honorable politician
  • An hourly payment

With some Expression and Phrases

  • An entire decade
  • Making an attempt
  • Take an interest in
  • Make an effort
  • An entire year