Basic English Usage
Articles

Introduction

The importance of articles

Some people don't have articles in their native language, so when they write English they omit articles because it feels natural to do so. Other people feel it is better to make the mistake of omitting an article than it is to make the mistake of using the wrong article. So it is natural that the typical default behavior is, "when in doubt, leave it out." But you will not do that. You will try to use articles correctly. You will commit to learning, over time, all the unique (and odd) ways that articles are used in English.

A Question: How will people fluent in English react if I omit articles that I am not sure about?

An Answer: It varies, but in general, here is how they can react to your writing when it has errors in the use of articles.

articles omitted:

"Meeting yesterday was helpful. You asked me to send email to describe what we offer. Brief description is provided below. Easy way to learn more is to read products page on our website."

People fluent in English may think, this person

articles used incorrectly:

"A meeting yesterday was helpful. You asked me to send the email to describe what we offer. The brief description is provided below. A easy way to learn more is to read a products page on our website."

People fluent in English may think, this person

articles used correctly:

"The meeting yesterday was helpful. You asked me to send an email to describe what we offer. A brief description is provided below. An easy way to learn more is to read the products page on our website."

People fluent in English are likely to think, this person

A versus An

A Question: When should I use a, and when should I use an?

An Answer (in the form of a question): Can I sing the beginning of the next word?

If you can sing, in the back of your throat, the first sound of the next word, use an in front of that word.

a payment → first sound = p

an easy payment → first sound = "ee" ♫

a late payment → first sound = l

a one-time payment → first sound = w

an honest payment → first sound = "ah" ♫

a useful payment → first sound = y

an uber payment → first sound = "ue" ♫

One way to remember this custom is to pretend you are an opera singer, warming up:

Lesson: Introduction
Module: Articles
Course: Basic English Usage