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LEARN ENGLISH INDEFINITE ARTICLES

English Indefinite Articles are the words we use to define the nouns (generally). In English we have two indefinite articles, we are talking about the words "a" and "an ". In English the article will always precede the noun that it is determining.

Example

A dog. (Un perro) (article + noun)

A white house on a green hill. (Una casa blanca sobre una colina verde) (article + adjective + noun + preposition + article + adjective + noun)

Unlike Spanish, in English we do not distinguish between masculine and feminine, singular and plural forms in the articles and adjectives . So the English articles "a" and "an" are the equivalent to the Spanish articles "UN, UNA, UNOS, UNAS". We use "A" before nouns starting with a consonant.

Example

a car (un coche)

a table (una mesa)

a telephone (un teléfono)

a book (un libro)

a shelf (una estantería)

On the other hand, we use "An" before nouns starting with a vowel.

Example

an engineer (un ingeniero)

an umbrella (un paraguas)

an elephant (un elefante)

an elision (una elisión)

The only exception to this rule are the words starting with "u" and this is pronounced /iu/ and not /Λ/, /u/ o /u:/.

Example

a universe (un universo)

an umbrella (un paraguas)

The indefinite articles are used to refer to an object or person in a non-specific way, that is, we do not specify exactly to which person or object we are referring to. In this way if we say "a cat ate the sardine" (un gato se comió la sardina) we are not specifying which cat ate the sardine, it could have been any cat.

SOME GENERAL USES

We use the indefinite articles when we speak about jobs or professions. In Spanish we never use the indefinite article in this context, so watch out and do not forget to use them in English!

Example

I am a teacher (Soy profesor)

He is an engineer (Él es ingeniero)

She is an assistant (Ella es dependienta)

We also use the indefinite article to talk about price / weight, speed.

Example

This car does 240 km an hour. (Este coche hace 240 km por hora)

It is 10 euros a kilo. (Son 10 euros el kilo)

Certain numbers in English require the presence of an indefinite article.

Example

A hundred (Cien)

A thousand (Mil)

A million (Un millón)

A billion (Un billón)

It is normal to use the indefinite article when we mention someone or something for the first time in our conversation or text.

Example

We bought a new computer and it was cheap. (Compramos un ordenador nuevo y fue barato)

They have a big car. (Tienen un coche grande)

After exclamations that start with the word "what".

Example

What a day! (¡Vaya día!)

In Spanish we do not use the indefinite articles in this case. What a pitty! (¡Qué pena!) In Spanish we do not use the indefinite articles in this case. We also use the indefinite article with proper nouns when we do not know the person we are talking about or we have very little information about them.

Example

A Mr. Smith has called. Do you know him? (Un señor Smith ha llamado. ¿Sabes quién es?)

*Note: The proper noun has to be preceded by a title. In this case the noun "Mr." precedes the proper noun "Smith".