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In this article the team of professional editors and proofreaders is going to explain a little the general rules of using articles. We know how it is difficult to cope with this theme, especially if you are non-native English speaker. Also, you should know that we help to non-native speakers very carefully and with a great pleasure. That is why we offer you to use our proofreading and editing services. Only professionals work in the essay-editor company. Our editors and proof readers have specialized education and do their best. So, let’s find out how to use articles in a proper manner!


Actually if do not get too deeply into "a grammar jungle", an article is a simple and logical thing – let's find out what it is and for what it is necessary.

By means of an article we give to the listener some additional information about a noun – whether this noun is unknown or already known for a listener or reader.

We use an indefinite article ("a" or "an"), as if we tell to the listener" you don't know this object yet, but now I will tell you about it". When we use the definite article (the), on the contrary, as if we tell "You should already know about this object, remember, we have already spoken about it".

Let’s take for an example this sentence:

I came up to a/the shelf and saw a/the book.

We will try to substitute different variants and to look how the sense of the sentence will change.

I came up to a shelf and saw a book.

I have stepped up to the first available shelf and have seen a book. It was just a book, the first available book. Both a book and a shelf are just accidental objects.

I came up totheshelf and sawabook.

I have stepped up not to some accidental shelf, but to some special shelf. Perhaps, it was the shelf where usually there are books on English – I always first step up to it when I come to shop. Or one more variant, I have asked the consultant in the shop "where are here interesting books?", and then I went to the shelf he had pointed to me.

Or just I have already mentioned this shelf in the previous sentence. Generally, the shelf is marked out from all other shelves. But this book is still unknown to me. It is just some book.

I came up toashelf and sawthebook.

Here is the most intriguing variant of the sentence. I have come to the first accidental shelf. And here is a book. I have seen one special book there. Maybe it is the book which I have been looking for a few weeks. Or it is the book about which I was told by my best friend at a meeting yesterday. Generally – on an accidental shelf i have seen "that" book, and the interlocutor who hears this sentence has to understand about what book I am telling him.
I came up totheshelf and sawthebook.

This sentence is for the listener, who has already known what the matter is. The listener knows about what shelf and about what book there is a speech.

Pay attention, that when I say "the book is known or the book is unknown", I mean that the book is known to the listener, but not to the speaker. So if I tell "I have a brother", it doesn't mean that we with a brother were separated in the childhood, and we have not seen each since 2000 year and I don't know him at all. It means that I have not told to the interlocutor about my brother yet and "brother" is something new and unknown for him. Also, you may read Cambridge approach to this theme. Maybe it will be useful for you and for your well written essay.

And in conclusion I want to add one more example, from Spielberg's movie "Jaw" (Jaws). The oceanologist is commenting on capture of a shark, but, in his opinion, not that which was terrorizing the city:

They caught a shark, not the shark. Big difference.

Here all sense keeps on different articles before each word "shark". The sentence would turn out into some nonsense without them.

So, in the simplest case the article reports whether the object is familiar to the listener or not yet. An indefinite article "a" or "an" is for unknown objects. Definite article "the" is for objects which are already known to the listener.

In true English, however, everything is a little more difficult and it is still necessary to add to this simple principle the whole set of rules and exceptions. We will also talk about them another time.

We hope this information was useful and interesting for you. We promise to extend the theme of usage of articles in the next our posts. If you have some questions or proposals, you are always welcome to contact us and to share your ideas with us.

Also you may read our other articles to improve your English. For example articles about usage of modal verbs in present and past tenses, about punctuation skills, about frequent grammar mistakes everyone can miss and so on and so on.

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