Basically, an article is an adjective. Like adjectives, articles modify nouns.
English has two articles: the and a/an. The is used to refer to specific or particular nouns; a/an is used to modify non-specific or non-particular nouns.
We call the definite article and a/an the indefinite article.

Use of 'A/AN'

1. ‘A’ is used before the noun that begins with a vowel letter but has initial constant pronunciation.
Here is a list of some nouns with similar categories:
union, uniform, unit, useful/ useless book, unique picture, young man, European, ewe, one rupee note, one-eyed giant, U.N. spokesman, university.
Example: He is a university professor.
However, ‘an’ is used with a noun that begins- with vowel sounds.
hour, heir, honour, honest/honourable man.
Example: He is an honest boy.

2. We use a and an before countable nouns in the singular number.
Examples: a train a question a euphemism
an uncle
an umbrella
an empire
a eulogy
a eunuch
a union

3. We use a and an in the expressions of price, speed, ratio, etc.
Examples: 10 rupees a kilo, sixty kilometres an hour, twice a day

4. A and An are also used in the sense of any, per, some, one and class representation.
Examples: He did not give me a book.
She earns two thousand a month.
Man has a head.
A cow is a useful animal.

5. Abbreviations take a/an articles before them.
a D.E.O. 
an X-ray
an M.D. 
a U.K. plane
an S.L.C. 
an F.I.R.

6. A/An is used in exclamation before singular countable nouns.
What a lovely smile !
How tall a girl !

7. A/An is used before verbs when they are used as nouns.
have a rest
make a rush
have a sleep
have a look
make a use
have a talk

8. A/An is used with certain numbers and expressions of quantity.
a hundred
a great number of
a kilo and a half
a good many of
a half holiday
a dozen

9. A/An can be used before Mr./Mrs./Mrs. + Surname.
a Mr. Yadav
a Miss Thapa

10. We use a/an before names of meals when they are preceded by an adjective.
Example: We had a delicious breakfast.

11. We use a/an before a proper noun to shift it into a common noun.
He is a Hitler.
He is a second Newton.

Use of ‘THE’

‘The' is used:
1. before the noun that represents the whole species.
The dog is a faithful animal.
The cow gives milk
But if the noun is countable, we can also use ‘a’. Both ‘a’ and ‘the’ mean the same.
A cow gives milk.
The cow gives milk.

2. Before superlative degree.
He is the tallest boy in the class.
But we use the in comparative degree too when it is used in the parallel structure to show a parallel increase.
The harder you work, the more you get.
The higher we climb, the cooler it is.

3. Before the adjective that represents plural nouns (the dumb, the deaf, the virtuous, the young).
The law should be fair to the lucky as well as the unlucky.
The rich should help the poor.

4. Before the repeated noun which is already mentioned.
He has bought a radio.
The radio was made in Korea.

5. Before the noun which is followed by of + noun’ i.e. noun + of + noun
The boys of this class are obedient.

6. Before the scientific inventions.
Who invented the radio?
The computer is a gift of science.
However, articles are not used in Watch television or On television.
He was on Television yesterday.
(Note: When things of the invention are used as countable nouns, indefinite articles are used.
He has bought a radio.

7. Before the affected parts of the body.
She caught him by the arm.
He was shot in the leg.

8. Before the names of musical instruments.
Hari played on the harmonium.
However, the name of musical instruments takes a/an article when they are used as countable nouns.
I have bought a trumpet.
He sent me a violin.

9. Before the particular noun is used as an adjective or adjective phrase.
This is the house I live in.
The boy in the corner is my brother.

10. Before the noun that shows the post.
I want to see the Principal.

11. Before the proper noun to show the similarity (quality/nature)
He is the Kalidas of Indian literature.
Kalidas was the Shakespeare of India.
She is the Lata Mangeshkar of Nepal.

12. Before the ordinal numbers.
She is the first girl in the class.
Which is the next topic we are doing?

13. Before the noun which means ‘same’
You are the man for the post.
That is the book I wanted.

14. Before the religious books.
the Mahabharat, the Kuran, the Bible, the Geeta, the Odessy, the Ramayan etc.
But, the is dropped when the author's name is prefixed to the name of book.
× Balmiki's Ramayan

15. Before the name of religion.
The Hindus
The Muslims
The Christians
The Jews
He is a Hindu boy.

16. Before the religious places.
the Pashupati, the Lumbini, the Mecca, etc.

17. Before the names of river, sea, plural lakes, ocean and bay.
the Bagmati, the great lakes, the Caspian Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Biscay
× Lake Victoria
× Lake Erie
× Hudson Bay

18. Before celestial bodies
the Sun, the Moon, the Stars
However, all planets other than the earth get zero article
× venus
× Mercury

19. Before the names of political parties.
the Congress, the Communist party etc.

20. Before nationality
the Nepalese, the Indians, the English etc.

21. Before a common noun as apposition to proper noun
Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, is being alarmingly polluted.

22. Before the names of historical places.
the Gorkha Durbar, the Taj Mahal etc.

23. Before the names of mountain ranges and groups of islands
the Himalayas, the West Indies, the Eastern Ghats, the Alps.
However, the names of mountain peaks and single islands do not have articles before them.
× Java
× Mount Everest
× Ceylon
× Nanda Devi
× Sicily
× Kanchanjunga
× Sumatra
× Dhaulagiri

24. Before the name of club, foundation, committee
the Lions Club,
the United Nations etc.

25. Before the armed force that imposes law.
the Police,
the Army,
the Navy etc.

26. before the names of aircraft, ships, trains.
the Super Sonic, the Victoria, the Terai Express etc.

27. Before the words ‘office, cinema, station.
He works in the office.
I am going to the station.

28. Before the names of a period of history.
the stone age
the modern age
the renaissance
the medieval age

29. Before ordinal numbers, government branches, governmental bodies and titles of officials.
the first
the Judiciary
the second
the Legislature
the last
the Department of Commerce
the vice-president

30. Before nouns showing weights / measures / rates.
Rice is sold by the kilo.
Wages are paid by the day.

31. Before proper nouns qualified by adjectives.
The immortal Gandhi
The great Nehru
The young Shakespeare
The wicked Ravan

32. Before common nouns used as abstract nouns.
The patriot in him
The doctor in you.
The mother in her
The singer in John.

33. Before the names of newspapers, museums, libraries and universities beginning with the word university.
The British Museum
The Himalayan Times
The British Library
The University of Delhi
(Note: Delhi University)

34. Before the names of seasons, geographical directions and physical environment.
The fog
The north
The spring
The rain
The south
The winter

35. Before the names of deserts, plains, plateaus, canals and terms of longitude and latitude.
The Gobi Desert
The Panama canal
The Great Plains
The Grand canal
The Plateau of China
The tropic of cancer

36. Before the names of wars except for world war.
The Gulf war
The Civil war
The Kargil war
The Cold war

37. Before the names of countries having two words and ending in '-S'.
The United States
The Soviet Union
The United Kingdom
The Netherlands
The Andamans
The Philippines
The East India
The Nicobars
The Hague
The Sudan
The Yamen
But, × Great Britain     

Omission of Articles

The articles are not generally used in the following cases:
1. Before the object complement that comes after the verbs: appoint, declare, elect, made, etc.
He was made Captain. They elected him President.
However, an object after these verbs take an indefinite article.
He appointed a clerk.

2. Before’ nature, science, life, parliament, freedom, death, man, woman, mankind, humanity’ when they are used in a general or specific sense.
Life is hard in new place.
The future of mankind is dark.

3. Before the noun that comes after’ type of, kind of, sort of, rank of, title of, etc.
I want this type of ball.
We don’t like this sort of group.
He is promoted to the rank of colonel.
However, articles can be used when they mean quality or capacity.
What kind of a man is he?

4. In news headlines, notices, lists, outlines, etc.
Missing family of news
man is safe
College closed for summer vacation

5. Generally, before proper, abstract and material nouns unless they are specified.
Honesty is always honoured.
Milk is a complete food.

6. Before the names of sports, academic subjects, languages, diseases, continents, cities streets, festivals, etc.
× Asia
× economics
× Kathmandu
× volleyball
× Washington D.C.
× French
× Diwali
× typhoid

Also, Read our other Notes of English for Entrance Exams:

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