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Definite and indefinite articles

Definite and indefinite articles are words that modify nouns in English. The word "the" is the definite article, which means it specifies a particular noun or a group of nouns. It can be used for singular or plural nouns. The words "a" or "an" are indefinite articles, which means they do not specify which noun they refer to.

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Video transcript

laz- [Voiceover] So we've covered the basic idea that divides the usage of "the" from "a" and "an". "The" is the definite article, and "a" or "an" is the indefinite. So when you're being non-specific in language, you would use the indefinite article as in, "May I have an orange?" Cause it doesn't matter which orange you're asking for, you don't care, it's any orange, as opposed to if you wanted the orange. This usage is much more specific, and it seems to indicate that there is only one orange. You see the orange in particular that you want, you're identifying it, you're asking for it. That's what this definite usage is. Something that's interesting about the word "the" is that it can be used for both singular and plural nouns. So it's both singular and plural. So you could say "May I have the orange?" You could also say "May I have the oranges?" And "a" and "an" does not really allow this, it is only singular. So you can't say "May I have an oranges?" This is not standard. What you'd probably say instead is "May I have some oranges?" So this is not standard, does not work in standard American English. The other thing about "a" or "an" is that it's "a" or "an". The indefinite article changes depending on the vowel sound that comes after it. So changes for vowel sounds. Now what does that mean? Well it means that if you know that word that you're going to say next like ah or ooh or eh or uh or ee, then you're gonna change it to "an". So it's the difference between saying "A box," and "An apple." What we don't say in standard American English is "a apple." It's not as easy on the mouth, frankly, it takes a little bit more effort. And any linguist will tell you that the way languages develop is that they reward laziness. So we say "a box" but we say "an apple." Something a little weird though, you want to make sure that you're looking for vowel sounds not just for vowels. Because some vowels, for example, the letter U don't always produce "ooh" sounds. Sometimes if they're at the beginning of a word, like in word union, so if you say "a union," that produces a "yuh" sound, and "yuh" is technically a consonant sound. That's not a vowel. But there are certainly cases like "An underwater boat," where the letter U does produce an "ooh" or an "uh" sound, and that's a vowel. So if you're gonna start the word with a vowel sound, what you wanna do is choose "an" instead of "a" but just be careful of the letter U for example. So to recap, "the" is the definite article. You can use it for both singular and plural usage. "May I have the orange?" "May I have the oranges?" "A" or "an" is indefinite and it's only singular, so you can say "May I have an orange?" or "May I have some oranges?" Before a vowel sound, "a" changes to "an" so you say "a box," but "an apple". Not "a apple." You say "a union," but "an underwater boat." You can learn anything. David out.