Red Pen Tidbits 10 (the end): Using articles — a, an, & the

Welcome back to the final in the series of Red Pen Tidbits (click for a full table of contents)! I will likely revisit this title, but it will no longer be part of a series. Last time we looked at a few of those tricky Verb Tenses.

This week as we embark on the end, we’ll explore the proper use of articles (a, an, and the).

What exactly are we talking about here?


Image result for article grammar cartoon
image from here

Articles define a noun as definite (specific) or indefinite (unspecific). They are found before the noun they define; although you may see an adjective or two separating them from the noun.

1. Definite Article — THE

The is a definite article. This limits the noun to one particular person, place, thing, or idea.

*TIP: Think about it as if someone was pointing at the item that is being defined.

  • I need to use the pen.
    • There is likely a pen in the vicinity that the speaker sees.
  • Did you hear the man on the announcements?
    • Only one person was speaking on the announcements that everyone just heard.
  • Who has the best grammar in our class?
    • Grammar is a thing, and this speaker wants to know which person is best at it in the class.
Image result for grammar article the
image from here

2. Indefinite Articles — AN

A and an are both indefinite article. This means a noun could be any of the possible people, places, things, or ideas available. It could be an alternate choice that is unavailable.

*TIP: Use a before words with consonant sounds. Use an before words with vowel sounds.

  • I need to use a pen.
    • The speaker doesn’t care which pen he/she uses.
  • I need an honest volunteer for this magic show.
    • The volunteer could be anyone in the audience. Noticean is used since honest starts with a vowel sound.
  • I wish I had a friendly aardvark.
    • This speaker wants any friendly aardvark. Noticea is used since friendly starts with a consonant sound.
Image result for articles grammar
image from here


For your last challenge of the series, take out your trusty Writer’s Notebook and write a poem featuring articles! Share your poem in the comments below or on social media! I can’t wait to see what you write.


If you need a bit more help after this tidbit, then please check out these other helpful sites.

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