In the previous lesson, we have learnt forms of Indefinite Article. In this lesson we are going to learn Indefinite Article usages or Uses of Indefinite Article. It is important to clearly know how to use because they are so easy to get confused.

The following are the correct rules of Indefinite Article ‘A’ or ‘An’ –

Rule 1 — Singular Countable Noun

When a Singular Countable Noun is used for the first time, Article ‘A’ or ‘An’ is used before it. As –
  1. I have a book.
  2. He us a boy.
  3. There is an eagle.
  4. California is a city.

Rule 2 —

When a Singular Countable Noun represents a whole class, Article ‘A’ or ‘An’ is used before it. As –
  1. A cow has horns. (i.e., All cows have horns.)
  2. An eagle flies very high. (i.e., All eagles fly very high.)
  3. A dog is a useful animal.
  4. A rose smells very sweet.

Rule 3 —

Article ‘A’ or ‘An’ is used before a Noun Complement. As –
  1. He is a lawyer.
  2. She became a great sportsman.
  3. She is an expert in this field.
  4. You are a good companion.

Rule 4 — a/an + Adjective/Adverb + Noun

If an Adjective/Adverb comes before a Noun, Article ‘A’ or ‘An’ is used before the Adjective/Adverb, and its form is determined by the nearest word. As –
  1. She is a beautiful girl.
  2. He is an honest man.
  3. He is a very honest man.
  4. This is an old rare book.

Rule 5 — a/an + more than one Noun

When more than one Noun or Adjective points to one Person or Thing only, Article ‘A’ or ‘An’ is used before the first word only, and its firm is also determined by the same first word.
But if they point to different Persons or Things, Article ‘A’ or ‘An’ is used before each word, and its form is determined by each words separately. As –
  1. He gave me a red and blue pencil. (Only one pencil)
  2. He gave me a red and a blue pencil. (Two pencils)
  3. Here is an ugly and foolish man. (One person)
  4. Here is an ugly and a foolish man. (Two person)

Rule 6 — Such + a/an

When ‘such’ is used with a Countable Noun, Article‘A’ or ‘An’ is used after ‘such’. As –
  1. I have never seen such a beautiful picture. (Not a such beautiful)
  2. Such a thing has never happened before.
  3. It was such a fine show.
  4. He gave us such a pleasant surprise.

Rule 7 — So + Adjective + a/an + Noun

When ‘so’ comes before an Adjective, Article ‘A’ or ‘An’ is used between the Noun and Adjective. As –
  1. I have never seen so beautiful a picture. (not a so beautiful picture)
  2. It was so fine a show.
  3. He gave us so pleasant a surprise.
  4. I have never read so interesting a novel.

Rule 8 — Exclamations

Article ‘A’ or ‘An’ is used before a Singular Countable Noun in Exclamatory sentences also. As –
  1. What a hot day!
  2. What a cruel act!
  3. What a pretty child!
  4. What a good chance!

Rule 9 — Numerical Expressions

Article ‘A’ or ‘An’ is used before some Numerical Expressions also. The more common of such expressions are –
a couple, a dozen, a score, a hundred, a thousand, a million, a lot of, a great many of, etc.
As –
  1. A couple of people were there.
  2. He gave me a thousand dollars.
  3. A great many visitors had turned up.
  4. A score of houses had been damaged.

Rule 10 — Expressions of price, speed, ratio, etc.

Article ‘A’ or ‘An’ is also used with expressions of price, speed, ratio, etc. As –
  1. The train is running at ninety kilometers an hour.
  2. Bananas are available at one dollar a dozen.
  3. Sugar sells at 1 dollar a kilogram.
  4. Colour and water are mixed at a ratio of one to five.
  5. Take this medicine three times a day.

Rule 11 — a/an + Mr./Mrs./Miss. + Surname

If we know only the surname of a person, and know nothing more, we use Article ‘A’ or ‘An’ before the surname. As –
  1. A Mr. John came in the morning.
  2. I met a Mrs. Peters in the train.
  3. A Miss Mercy a regular visitor here.
  4. A Ms. Puri is waiting for you.

Rule 12 — a few/a little

We should use ‘a few’ a small number, and ‘a little’ for a small quantity. As –
  1. Here is a little milk.
  2. Here are a few pencil.
  3. He is a little tired.
  4. There is a little time left.

Rule 6 — a/an with some phrases

Article ‘A’ or ‘An’ is also used before some typical expressions. The more common of them are –
to make a noise, to take a fancy to, to have a headache/a pain, to take a liking to, to have a cold, to have a mind, to have an eye to, to make a fire, to be in a hurry, to be in a temper, to have a taste for.