A Practical English Grammar by Thomas & Martinet

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1 Articles and one, a little/a few, this, that

1 a/an (the indefinite article)

The form a is used before a word beginning with a consonant, or a vowel with a consonant sound:

a man a hat a university a European

a one-way street

The form an is used before words beginning with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) or words beginning with a mute h:

an apple an island an uncle

an egg an onion an hour

or individual letters spoken with a vowel sound:

an L-plate an MP an SOS an 'x' a/an is the same for all genders:

a man a woman an actor an actress a table

2 Use of a/an a/an is used:

A Before a singular noun which is countable (i.e. of which there is more than one) when it is mentioned for the

first time and represents no particular person or thing:

/ need a visa. They live in a flat. He bought an ice-cream.

B Before a singular countable noun which is used as an example of a class of things:

A car must be insured = All cars/Any car must be insured.

A child needs love =All children need/Any child needs love.

C With a noun complement. This includes names of professions:

It was an earthquake. She'll be a dancer. He is an actor.

D In certain expressions of quantity: a lot of a couple

a great many a dozen (but one dozen is also possible)

a great deal of

E With certain numbers

a hundred a thousand (See 349 ) Before half when half follows a whole number

ll/2 kilos = one and a half kilos or a kilo and a half But 1/2 kg = half a kilo (no a before half), though a + half +

noun is sometimes possible

a half holiday a half portion a half share With 1/3 1/4, 1/5 etc a is usual a third, a quarter etc , but one is

also possible (See 350 )

F In expressions of price, speed, ratio etc

5p a kilo £1 a metre sixty kilometres an hour

lOp a dozen four times a day (Here a/an = per )

G In exclamations before singular, countable nouns

Such a long queue' What a pretty girl' But Such long queues' What pretty girls' (Plural nouns, so no

article See 3 )

H a can be placed before Mr/Mrs/Miss + surname

a Mr Smith a Mrs Smith a Miss Smith

a Mr Smith means 'a man called Smith' and implies that he is a stranger to the speaker Mr Smith, without a, implies that the speaker knows Mr Smith or knows of his existence

(For the difference between a/an and one, see 4 For a few and a little, see 5 )

3 Omission of a/an a/an is omitted

A Before plural nouns

a/an has no plural form. So the plural of a dog is dogs, and of

an egg is eggs

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