Difference Between Definite and Indefinite Articles

Main Difference – Definite vs Indefinite Articles

In grammar, an article is a word that gives information about a noun or a noun phrase. There are only three major articles in the English language, and they can be categorized into two different types: definite articles and indefinite articles. The main difference between definite and indefinite articles is that definite articles are used to indicate something specific whereas indefinite articles are used to indicate something nonspecific.Difference Between Definite and Indefinite Articles - infographic

What is a Definite Article

A definite article is a word that indicates something specific. The is only one definite article in the English language. Given below are some guidelines and examples to understand the use of definite articles.

You should use definite articles when you are referring to something specific and when the listeners and the readers know exactly which thing you are referring to.

Where is the book I gave you last week?

(He/she is looking for a specific book, not any book)

He is at the park.

(Listeners or readers know the park he is referring to)

I found a solution to the problem.

(Everyone knows what the problem is)

You can also use definite articles to mention something that has already been introduced.

I saw a cat. The cat was wet.

A woman called me yesterday. The woman who called me yesterday told me that her life was in danger.

Main Difference - Definite vs Indefinite Articles

The fruit basket is on the table.

What is an Indefinite Article

An indefinite article is a word that indicates something nonspecific. There are two indefinite articles in the English language; they are a and an. A comes before nouns that being with consonant sounds and an comes before nouns that being with vowel sounds.

Give me a tissue.

(I don’t need a specific tissue, any tissue will do)

Please give me a pen.

(Any pen will do)

We also use a/an to introduce something for the first time. After the introduction, we can use definite article to refer to it. For example,

A huge tree has fallen on the roof.

(the readers or the listeners do not know which tree the speaker/writer is referring to)

A new shop has been opened in the 4th lane.

It is also important to note that indefinite articles cannot be used with plural nouns. Only single, countable nouns can be used with a and an.

Difference Between Definite and Indefinite Articles

A man is riding a bicycle.

Difference Between Definite and Indefinite Articles

Specific vs Nonspecific

Definite Articles are used to indicate something specific.

Indefinite Articles are used to indicate something nonspecific.

Introduction

Definite Articles can be used after introducing the noun or noun phrase.

Indefinite Articles can be used to introduce a noun or noun phrase.

Singular vs Plural

Definite Articles can be used with singular and plural nouns.

Indefinite Articles can be used only with singular nouns.

Existing Knowledge

Definite Articles can be used to discuss something that is already known by the reader/listener.

Indefinite Articles cannot be used to discuss something that is already known by the reader/listener.

Countable vs Uncountable Nouns

Definite Articles can be used with countable and uncountable nouns.

Indefinite Articles cannot be used with uncountable nouns.

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About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.


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