When to use "A" or "AN" in a sentence... and when NOT to! (Indefinite Articles)

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In this grammar lesson, you will learn exactly when to use the indefinite articles "a" and "an" in an English sentence. Using these articles correctly will dramatically improve your English because they are so frequently used. Many English learners make mistakes because indefinite articles don't exist in many languages like Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, and Polish. But even if your language doesn't have them, don't worry. I'll explain the clear rules for when you must use indefinite articles. You'll also see examples of how indefinite articles are used in common speech, so you get a feel for what is right. Let's get started, so you can master this important part of English grammar!

TAKE THE QUIZ: https://www.engvid.com/when-to-use-indefinite-articles/

TRANSCRIPT

Hi, everyone. In this lesson we're going to look at when to us "a" or "an". In these sentences if we remove "a" sometimes the sentence is grammatically incorrect or it sounds wrong, or sometimes the sentence is still correct but it changes the meaning. So this lesson is about when we need to use "a" or "an" in the sentence instead of "the" or not having it all so that we get the correct meaning. Let's start with... These are different grammar rules for when to use "a" or "an".

Let's start with when something is unspecified or known. Here are some examples, when I say: "He has a cat.", or I say: "I'm going to buy a tent.", or I say: "Do you want a beer?" these are all examples of something unspecified. I know he has a cat, but I don't know this cat personally, so I just say: "a cat". When I say: "He has the cat", I mean that one and you know the one I'm talking about. He has the cat. When I say: "I'm going to buy the tent", the meaning is different because that sentence, "the tent", "I'm going to buy the tent" is as if I've already decided it and talked about, and chosen the tent before. Not a tent. I'll go to the shop, I'll look at them, I'll buy that one. So this one is unspecified and this one is known. For anybody who doesn't know what the word "tent" is, we use a tent when we go camping and we sleep outside. We zip open the tent, we sleep inside there. And the last example, again: "Do you want a beer?" I mean a beer in general, one of these here, here you go. When I say: "Do you want the beer?" there's only one beer there, last one.

Moving on, one of something. "I'll have a glass of red wine." That means one. Perhaps you'd say that when you're ordering at a bar: "I'll have a glass of red wine, please." Number two here: "He has a daughter." Means the same as he has one daughter. And the next example: "I've got two apples and an orange." In this sentence we have the number two for two apples, but we only mean one orange, so we say "an orange". I can also say: "I've got two apples and one orange", but this sentence makes sense as well. If you're wondering: "Why is it 'an' here and not 'a'", go and check out Gill's lesson on when to use "a" or "an". So pause this video and come back after.

Moving on, looking at jobs now, we say: "She's a teacher.", "Mr. Smith is a police officer.", and we say: "Rachel is a nurse." These sentences are wrong if I remove the "a". "She's teacher", wrong. "Mr. Smith is police officer", wrong. And: "Rachel is nurse", wrong. Depends on your native language, but if you don't use articles... For example, in the Polish language or Arabic, many people speaking English, especially at intermediate level do not use "a" in their sentences. So it's a very common mistake to say something like: "She's teacher." And see if you can hear me saying "a", because if you're not used to those articles you might not even hear it. So listen carefully again this time: "She's a teacher." "a" becomes "e": "She's e teacher.", "Mr. Smith is a police officer.", "e". "Rachel is a nurse." So I say it really quickly. So you might not hear it so easily when I'm saying it, but if you don't say it... If you say: "Rachel is nurse", I can hear that every time, so remember that.

Number four, religions or ideologies. We say: "He's a Christian.", "They are Hindus." A quick note here about these capital letters: Because these religions are names, we use a capital letter there. "Karl Marx was a communist.", and "Margaret Thatcher was a conservative."

Moving on to number five which is social movements or trends. When we're describing that someone belongs to a group in this way or follows a particular trend, that's when we use "a". "He's a biker." means the same thing as: "He's a Hell's Angel." These are the people that ride the Harley Davidson motorbikes, they wear all leather clothes, beards, and bandanas, and ride around on their bikes in a motorcycle gang. We don't say: "He's the biker", or: "He's the Hell's Angel", because that changes the meaning of the sentence. If I say: "He's the biker", it would be in a situation where somebody said: "Where's the biker? Where is he here?" And I say: "He's the biker."

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