A, an, and the are called articles. The definite article the is used to refer to a specific noun, while the indefinite articles a and an are used to refer to non-specific nouns. Consider the following examples.
1.) Please give me the notebook.
2.) Please give me a notebook.
In the first sentence, a specific notebook is referred to. It is assumed that both the speaker and the listener know which notebook is referred to. On the other hand, in the second sentence, the speaker asks for a notebook, any notebook will do.
Rules in Using A and An
A and an are both used to refer to non-specific nouns but there are rules that you must remember to use them.
Rule 1a: a is used before a SINGULAR noun beginning with a CONSONANT letter (with exception of Rule 1b).
Examples: a laptop, a car, a mirror, a pen
Rule 1b: a is used before a SINGULAR noun beginning with a VOWEL letter that sounds like a consonant
Examples: a user (sounds like yooser), a university (yooniversity), a unique (yoonik) trait
In the previous examples, u sounds like yu which starts with y.
Rule 2: an is used before a SINGULAR non beginning with a VOWEL
Examples: an English teacher, an umbrella, an amicable settlement
Rule 3: A and an are both used before words starting with h. If h sounds like a CONSONANT, a is used. If it sounds like a VOWEL, an is used.
Examples: a hammer, a human being, an hour (sound like “our”), an honorable man (sounds like “onorable”)
In Grammar Quiz 4, number 3, you were asked the following question. If you got this item wrong, now, you should be able to answer it correctly. 🙂
3. __ hour ago, I met ___ beautiful woman.
a.) A, a
b.) An, a
c.) A, an
d.) An, an