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【a? the?】冠詞の使い分けができますか?

2016.04.15

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Should I use "A", "An" or "The"? Even after years of studying English, students may find themselves asking that question over and over again. English articles can be quite a challenge. Even advanced level students still have trouble with them, and the fact that Japanese doesn't really have articles makes the concept even harder to understand.  So, let's have a look at some of the rules for how to use them correctly in English, and hopefully you will make fewer mistakes!

A vs. An

USE 1

The article A is used before singular, countable nouns which begin with consonant sounds.

Examples:

  • He is a teacher.
  • She doesn't own a car.
  • I saw a bear at the zoo.

USE 2

The article AN is used before singular, countable nouns which begin with vowel sounds.

Examples:

  • He is an actor.
  • She didn't get an invitation.
  • I saw an eagle at the zoo.

USE 3

Remember that A(AN) means "one" or "a single". You cannot use A(AN) with plural nouns.

Examples:

  • I saw a bears in Yellowstone National Park. Not Correct
  • I saw bears in Yellowstone National Park. Correct

USE 4

If there is an adjective or an adverb-adjective combination before the noun, A(AN) should agree with the first sound in the adjective or the adverb-adjective combination.

Examples:

  • He is an excellent teacher.
  • I saw a really beautiful eagle at the zoo.

USE 5

Use A before words such as "European" or "university" which sound like they start with a consonant even if the first letter is a vowel. Also use Abefore letters and numbers which sound like they begin with a consonant, such as "U", "J", "1" or "9". Remember, it is the sound not the spelling which is important. For example, "1" is spelled O-N-E; however, it is pronounced "won" like it starts with a "W".

Examples:

  • She has a euro. Sounds like "yu-ro".
  • That number is a "1". Sounds like "won".

USE 6

Use AN before words such as "hour" which sound like they start with a vowel even if the first letter is a consonant. Also use AN before letters and numbers which sound like they begin with a vowel, such as "F" or "8". Remember, it is the sound not the spelling which is important. For example, "F" is pronounced "eff" like it starts with an "E".

Examples:

  • I only have an hour for lunch. Sounds like "au-er".
  • Does his name begin with an "F"? Sounds like "eff".

USE 7

Some words such as "herb" or "hospital" are more complicated because they are pronounced differently in different English accents. In most American accents, the "h" in "herb" is silent, so Americans usually say "an herb". In many British accents, the "h" in "herb" is pronounced, so many British say "a herb". In some British accents, the "h" in hospital is silent, so some British will say "an hospital" instead of "a hospital".

USE 8

In English, some nouns are considered uncountable such as: information, air, advice, salt and fun. We do not use A(AN) with these uncountable nouns.

Examples:

  • She gives a good advice. Not Correct
  • She gives good advice. Correct

 

 

A(An) vs. The

USE 9

A and AN are called indefinite articles. "Indefinite" means "not specific". Use A(AN) when you are talking about a thing in general, NOT a specific thing.

Examples:

  • I need a phone. Not a specific phone, any phone
  • Mark wants a bicycle. Not a particular bicycle, a bicycle in general
  • Do you have a driver's license? In general

Use A(AN) when talking about a thing which is new, unknown, or introduced to a listener for the first time. Also use A(AN) when you are asking about the existence of something.

Examples:

  • I have a car. The car is being introduced for the first time.
  • Tom is a teacher. This is new information to the listener.
  • Is there a dictionary in your backpack? Asking about the existence of the dictionary

Similarly, use A(AN) to introduce what type of thing we are talking about.

Examples:

  • That is an excellent book. Describing the kind of book
  • Do you live in a big house? Asking about the kind of house
  • I ate a thick, juicy steak. Describing the kind of steak

REMEMBER: You cannot use A(AN) with plural nouns because A(AN) means "one" or "a single".

Examples:

  • I saw bears in Yellowstone National Park. Not Correct
  • I saw bears in Yellowstone National Park. Correct

USE 10

THE is called a definite article. "Definite" means "specific". Use THE when talking about something which is already known to the listener or which has been previously mentioned, introduced, or discussed.

Examples:

  • I have a cat. The cat is black.
  • There is a book in my backpack. The book is very heavy.
  • Do you know where I left the car keys? The listener knows which specific car keys you are talking about.
  • Do you own a car? Is the car blue? You assume they do have a car after asking about it in the first sentence.
  • Nobody lives on the Moon. The Moon is known to everyone.

IMPORTANT: You can use THE with both singular nouns and plural nouns.

Examples:

  • I saw the bear in Yellowstone National Park. Correct
  • I saw the bears in Yellowstone National Park. Correct

USE 11

Many clauses and phrases make the noun known to the listener by telling the listener which person or thing we are talking about. Let's look at an example sentence:

Can you give me the book on the table.

We use THE in this sentence because the phrase "on the table" tells the listener which book we are referring to. We are not talking about other books, we are talking about a specific book that the listener can see or already knows about. Learning to recognize such identifying clauses and phrases will help you use THE correctly.

Examples:

  • Did you read the book which I gave you?
  • He didn't like the movie that you suggested.
  • He loved the dessert with chocolate and cherries.
  • The phone on my desk belongs to Ken.
  • Did you know the man who was talking to Leonie?

HOWEVER: Not all clauses and phrases make the noun known to the listener. Some are simply descriptive. They add extra information, but they do not tell the listener which specific thing we are talking about.

Examples:

  • He bought the house with a big backyardThis combination tells the listener which specific house he bought.
  • He bought a house with a big backyardThis combination tells the listener what kind of house he bought, but not the specific house he bought.

 

 Your Turn

Choose A, AN, THE or (/) for "no article" for each blank below, then scroll to the bottom of the page to check your answers.

1. Toru bought  new bike last week. Unfortunately,  bike broke after just two days.

2. We went to  movie yesterday. Even though it got  good reviews,  movie was absolutely terrible. I was so mad, I went to  box office and asked for my money back. 

3. Our teacher gave us  test today. It was  really hard test. There were  questions on there which I didn't even understand.

4. Excuse me, is there  post office around here? I need to buy  stamp. 

5. We have  beautiful lake behind our house. Every winter,  lake freezes over and we can go ice skating. When I was  kid, I used to spend  hours skating back and forth across  ice.

6. Carrie works for  amazing organization;  organization provides  food and  supplies for children in  developing world.

7. A: Is there  water on  Moon?
    B: Yes, scientists have discovered  ice there.

8. When I turned on my new laptop,  screen exploded! Luckily, it has  good warranty. Either they will replace  broken screen or send me  brand new laptop.

9. A: I know  great new restaurant called Mumbai on 8th Avenue. It's  Indian restaurant with  incredible food.
    B: Oh yeah, I know that restaurant;  chef is  good friend of mine.

10. Wow, I can't believe how much  liter of gas costs these days. If  price keeps going up, I'm going to buy  electric car.

 Check your answers below.


 

1. Toru bought a new bike last week.  Unfortunately, the bike broke after just two days.

2. We went to a movie yesterday. Even though it got (/) good reviews, the movie was absolutely terrible. I was so mad, I went to the box office and asked for my money back.

3. Our teacher gave us a test today. It was a really hard test. There were (/) questions on there which I didn’t even understand.

4. Excuse me, is there a post office around here? I need to buy a stamp.

5. We have a beautiful lake behind our house. Every winter, the lake freezes over and we can go ice skating. When I was a kid, I used to spend (/) hours skating back and forth across the ice.

6. Carrie works for an amazing organization; the organization provides (/) food and (/) supplies for children in the developing world.

7. A: Is there (/) water on the moon?

    B: Yes, scientists have discovered (/) ice there.

8. When I turned on my new laptop, the screen exploded! Luckily, it has a good warranty. Either they will replace the broken screen or send me a brand new laptop.

9. A: I know a great restaurant called Taj Mahal on 8th Avenue. It’s an Indian restaurant with (/) incredible food.

    B: Oh yeah, I know that restaurant; the chef is a good friend of mine.

10. Wow, I can’t believe how much a liter of gas costs these days. If the price keeps going up, I’m going to buy an electric car.

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