May 31, 2020 All

A/An, and The

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A/An, and The:

One of the biggest mistakes non-native English writers make when composing e-mails, papers, or even basic messages is improperly using the articles a/an and the. These articles work as adjectives, in that, they help modify or describe a noun. 

The primary difference between a/an and the is that a/an is used to describe a non-specific or indefinite noun, while the is used to describe a specific or definite noun. 

Use the following rule of thumb to help you properly use these words, when you’re writing: 

A/An– Use when speaking generally and not referring to one particular person or thing.

Example: I would like to visit a bookstore and purchase a book.

In this example, the subject is speaking quite broadly about both the bookstore and the book. We, as the readers of this sentence, do not know which bookstore the subject will be visiting, nor do we know which book the speaker will be purchasing. 

Remember- A/An is all about speaking generally and broadly.

The– Use when specifying and distinguishing from other people or things.

Example: I would like to visit the bookstore and purchase the book you     mentioned earlier. 

In this example, the subject is referring to a particular bookstore and a particular book, that we, as the readers, are assumed to know.

 If, for example, you and your friend attend the same university, and that university has only one bookstore, and that particular bookstore, logically, is the most likely bookstore your friend is talking about, you would know that the bookstore your friend is referring to is the university bookstore.  Also, your friend could have simply mentioned the name of the bookstore earlier, and you now know which bookstore your friend is talking about. 

Additionally, we are assumed to know which book your friend is referring to, as well. Somehow, the speaker has mentioned the book before and we are familiar with this item, which allows the speaker to use the, rather than a/an.

Remember- The is all about being specific and referring  exactly to a specific person or         thing. 

Here is a more complicated example for you guys:

Last year we visited London, England and met some new friends, Cory and Topanga, who lived in the city. They took us to a play and then to a restaurant, one night. The play was called “Romeo and Juliet”, and the restaurant had incredible English food. 

Give this example a try and see if you can explain why a/an and the are used. Good luck!

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