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Grammar Challenge


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Grammar challenger Saleh from Saudi Arabia

Articles introduction
One feature of English which can cause a lot of problems for learners is articles, those little words 'a', 'an' and 'the'. Today we begin to look at this topic with a basic rule.

In the programme we challenge Saleh from Saudi Arabia to spot correct and incorrect uses of definite and indefinite articles.


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Find out more

There are two types of articles. They are known as the definite and indefinite articles. The words 'a' and 'an' are the indefinite articles and 'the' is the definite article. Articles are used at the beginning of noun phrases.

a or an?
If the noun begins with a vowel sound then the indefinite article to use is 'an', e.g. an apple. However if the noun begins with a consonant sound, then the indefinite article to use is 'a', e.g. a cat.

The zero article
In some cases nouns such as plural and uncountable nouns do not have articles before them. This lack of an article is sometimes known as the zero article, e.g. I've got two cats.

There are quite a few rules connected with the use of articles. Here is a basic one to start with

We use the indefinite article – 'a' and 'an'
to refer to something or someone for the first time in a conversation:

She has two children – a boy and a girl.
I hear you've just bought a new car.
She bought a lovely bag yesterday.

We use the definite article – 'the'

to refer to something or someone that both speakers in a conversation know about or that has been referred to before:

boy is 7 and the girl 4.
I'm going to use the new one for driving my family around and I'm keeping my old one just for myself.
The bag was red leather and really lovely.


Download Nuala's grammar explanation and table (pdf - 31k)

Download this programme (mp3 - 1.8 MB)
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Take the challenge
Now it's your turn to practise articles. Go to our quiz page on this subject here.

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Nuala Nuala and Callum

Flatmates - Articles
Oxford House College*

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In the next programme: more on articles - the definite article.

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