Lesson Transcript

Hi, everybody. My name is Alisha. In this lesson, I'm going to talk about how to use "a" and "the," and when to use no article. Let's get started.
Okay. First, I want to begin by talking about using "a" and "an." These are the indefinite articles that we use in English. Regarding pronunciation, you might hear people use "ah" or "ae." You can choose whichever you prefer. They're both correct. We use the indefinite article, "a" or "an," when we want to introduce a noun. That means it's our first time using the noun, like when we're telling a story, for example. The first time we introduce the noun, we use "a" or "an" to do that. We use "a" if the following noun begins with a consonant sound.
Some examples of this. "A cookie," this is a, /c/, a consonant sound, "a pen," this /p/ is a consonant sound, and "a fish," this /f/ is a consonant sound. If the next word, if the following noun begins with a consonant sound, we should use the "a" indefinite article. Then we use "an" when the following noun begins with a vowel sound. Some examples of this are, "An apple." Here, we have /a/ as our vowel sound. We use "an," "an apple," "an egg," here, the /e/ sound. And then "an hour." Here, this is a vowel sound. This is a great example of this note that I want to mention.
Sound does not equal spelling. I said when the following noun begins with a vowel sound, we use "an." Here, yes, we have the consonant "H" beginning this word, but it makes a vowel sound, "an hour." It's like the "H" doesn't make that "H" sound, "an hour." We use this indefinite article "an" instead of "a." Please be careful. We're listening for a sound, not for the spelling, in this case.
Okay. Then as you can see, we use the indefinite article before nouns in the singular form only. So, for example, you don't see "s" at the end of these words. We can only use the singular form. Meaning, one of something. Only the singular form when you're using the indefinite article. A very simple example sentence using the indefinite article is "I got a dog." We might start a story with this. "I got a dog." "Dog" is in the singular. "I got one dog." This is a new dog. I'm introducing this dog to my conversation, so I use "a" to do that.
Okay. Let's compare this now to the definite article. "The" is the definite article in English. We use "the" to refer to a known or a specific noun. This can be something that we directly explain, or we just understand it from the context. Relating to this point, something that we understand from context or a specific noun, this can be when there's only one of something. A great example of this is some countries. For example, The United States of America, or like The Republic of so-and-so. Those begin with "the." There's only one of that, and we understand that. We use "the" in cases like that, but then like the title.
Okay. We use "the" to talk about things we know about, something that we heard earlier in a conversation or earlier in a story, for example, or when we know what the noun is. We can use this before singular or plural forms of nouns. Here's an example. "I got a dog," which we saw before. "I got a dog." "I bought a bed for the dog." Here, I've used "the" because in this sentence, I mentioned this dog. The dog in this sentence is the dog I bought, or I got rather, in the first sentence. I'm introducing it here. "I got a dog." This is my introductory statement kind of, my full sentence. Here's this new information, this new noun. "I got a dog." In my next sentence, I want to mention this same dog. I use "the" to describe that. "I bought a bed for the dog." You'll also notice here I've introduced another new thing. "I bought a bed for the dog." I've used the indefinite article here. This is another new thing. But I want to refer to the same known noun that I introduced in the previous sentence.
Okay. This is an introduction to using the definite article. Now, let's look at when to use no article. No "a," no "an," no "the." We use no article when referring generally to a group or all instances, like all kinds or all types of something. We use this a lot when we're talking about things we like or dislike, for example. We use the plural form of the noun. We do not use the singular form. We need to use the plural form. A very simple example of this is, "I like dogs." You'll see here, I've used the plural form, "dogs." By saying, "I like dogs," it means I like all instances of that, I like all examples of dogs, all different kinds of dogs. I like dogs.
Okay. Let's continue on then to a short story example that I prepared. This example includes uses of the indefinite article, the definite article, and cases where we'll see no article. There are a couple points I want to talk about. Let's take a look. "Last weekend, I took a bus to a park near my neighborhood. I walked around the park, then I found a place to sit down and relax. I read a book, took photos, and enjoyed watching the people at the park. But I got bit by a bug. I hate mosquitoes." This is a very simple story about something that happened recently. This is a past tense story. It features indefinite, definite articles, and no article.
Let's take a look. "Last weekend, I took a bus." I'm introducing a bus. This is the first case where I'm explaining a bus in my story. "I took a bus to a park near my neighborhood." "A park near my neighborhood," this means there could be other parks near the neighborhood. I want to talk about one in particular, "to a park in my neighborhood." "I walked around the park." Here, I used "the" to refer to this park I introduced earlier in my story. "I walked around the park," this park I talked about before. "Then found a place to sit down and relax." My next step was to find a place. I'm using "a" here because the place is just any place. I just chose one specific place to sit down and relax. This could be any place. I want to talk about just one in particular.
Okay. Then I said, "I read a book." Again, I'm using "a" here to introduce this. I have not talked about the book before. I want to introduce my book to the story. "I read a book, took photos." Here, there's nothing, you'll notice. "I took a photo." I could say, "I took a photo" if I took one photo, but maybe if I took a lot of photos, I would say, "I took photos." "And I enjoyed watching the people at the park." This "the" I think is pretty clear. "At the park," I'm talking about the specific part I visited.
This one, however, I've included in parenthesis, "Watching the people at the park." Why did I do this? There are some cases where it's correct to use "the," and it's correct to use no article. This is one example of that. Here, "Enjoyed watching the people in the park, and enjoyed watching people in the park," those are both correct sentences actually. There's not really a difference in meaning here because I've included a location here. Like if I said, "I enjoyed watching the people," I might be confused as the listener, like which people? Who were you watching? Saying, "Watching people at the park" makes it clear that it's only about people who were at the park.
If I want to be extra specific and give extra emphasis, I can include that here, "Watching the people in the park," like this is the thing I was focusing my attention on in the park. You can choose to include it; you can choose not to include it. They communicate the same thing, but this is one example of a situation where you could use the article or you could choose not to.
Okay. Then our last sentence, "But I got bit by a bug." Again, new thing, something new is in my story, "A bug," in this case, by one bug. Then I finish with this expression, "I hate mosquitoes." Mosquitoes are those small bugs that bite you and it gets really itchy, a mosquito. But I'm making a general statement, all mosquitoes, I hate mosquitoes, maybe because they bite, so I used the plural form, "I hate mosquitoes" with no article. "I hate mosquitoes."
This is a simple example of a situation or a story where you would use definite, indefinite, and no article to explain something that happened to you. I hope that this lesson gives you a good introduction to how and when to use "a" and "the" and no article. But if you have any questions or comments, or if you want to practice making a story in the comments section, please feel free to do so. Thanks very much for watching this lesson and I will see you again soon. Bye-bye!