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Introduction to articles

Articles—words like the, a, and an—are special adjectives we use to indicate whether a noun is specific or not specific.

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Grammarians, I would like to tell you a tale of two elephants. In order to get at the idea of this thing called the article. We'll explain what that is after I tell you about the elephant and an elephant. Now articles are words like "a" or "an" or "the". Articles are a kind of adjective, some people would call them a determiner, that help you figure out how important something is. Or how specific something is. So, articles. What articles do is they tell you whether or not something is specific. Are you thinking about any old elephant when you talk about an elephant, or are you thinking about one elephant in particular? The elephant. And this is the difference. When we're talking about the elephant we're talking about a specific elephant. We have particular one in mind. This what's called the definite. Because it defines what we're talking about. You know, this elephant could be the queen of the elephants. Sometimes, when we make sentences we want to aim for that kind of precision. We want to be precise. We want to know exactly what we're talking and who we're talking about and why. That's a case where you would use the word "the". Now if you're not being specific. If you're talking about any old elephant. An elephant that you're not especially familiar with. An elephant you haven't introduced before. You would say "an" elephant, because it's not specific... and it's undefined. So, grammarians call that an indefinite article. When you know who and what you are talking about for sure you say "the". And when you're not sure, you say "a" or "an". So if you knew you were talking about a specific elephant. Say for example the queen of the elephants. The queen. As indicated by her royal crown, you would say "the". And if you were talking about any old elephant? You'd say "an". You'd use the indefinite article. We'll cover this more later. I just wanted to give you an introduction to the idea of what an article is. So "the" for specific, "a" or "an" for nonspecific. You can learn anything, David out.