A modifying word that determines the kind of reference a noun or noun group has is termed as a determiner.
The Definite and Indefinite Articles are all Determiners. These are – ‘A’, ‘An’, ‘The’
Determiners can be classified as specific and general
All the following words are specific determiners:
Definite Article: the
Demonstratives: this, that, these, those, which
Possessives: my, your, our, their, his, hers, whose, its
Specific determiners are used when people know exactly which thing (or things) or person (or persons) they are talking about.
All the following words are general determiners:
The Indefinite Articles: a, an
Quantifiers: few, many, much, each, every, some, any
Others: neither, no, other, several, both, either, enough, fewer, less, little, more, most etc.
General determiners talk about people or things without saying exactly who or what they are.
‘A’ and ‘an’ are the Indefinite Articles. They refer to something not specifically known to the person you are communicating with.
Usage of ‘a’ and ‘an’
‘A’ is used when the noun referred to begins with a consonant sound, when the noun referred to begins with a vowel, when we talk about a profession or before words which start with vowel ‘u’ but the beginning sound is like ‘you’ or simple ‘u’ or before words starting with ‘o’ but have a beginning consonant sound ‘wo’.
Example: Mr. John is a European.
He had a one dollar note in his hand.
‘An’ is used before words beginning with ‘h’ but where ‘h’ is silent. It is also used before abbreviations starting with a consonant but pronounced with a vowel sound.
Example: An M P
THE USAGE OF ‘THE’
‘The’ is used when the listener knows or can work out what particular person/thing is being talked about.
Example: Did you lock the car?
The’ is also used when we have already mentioned the thing we are talking about or to talk about geographical points on the globe.
‘The’ is used to talk about rivers, oceans and seas, before certain nouns when there is only one of that particular kind, before holy books and epics, before a proper noun when it conveys the sense of the whole nation or people, before the superlative degree of an adjective, before communities, before the name of a newspaper or a magazine, etc.
OMISSION OF ARTICLES
In some cases, we avoid using articles. Let’s look at those situations.
We don’t use articles with proper nouns, with plural countable nouns, with the names of diseases like cholera, malaria, fever etc. or to talk about things in general.
Articles are not used when we talk about sports or before uncountable nouns when talking about them generally.
Example: Coffee is bad for you.