Definite vs Indefinite Articles
As articles are basic grammatical features in English grammar, knowing the difference between definite and indefinite articles is important. All the articles found in English grammar are divided into these two categories: definite article and indefinite articles. The article ‘the’ is called the definite article. On the other hand, the articles ‘a’ and ‘an’ are called the indefinite articles. These articles are used for different purposes and that is their main difference. However, both definite and indefinite articles are placed before nouns. They are a kind of adjectives and, like adjectives, the definite and indefinite articles modify the nouns. Let us now have a look at the difference between definite and indefinite articles, in detail.
What is a Definite Article?
According to the Oxford Dictionary definite article is “A determiner (‘the’ in English) that introduces a noun phrase and implies that the thing mentioned has already been mentioned, or is common knowledge, or is about to be defined.” We can also say that the word definite in the term definite article refers to the definiteness or the particularity of an object or a person. Take a look at the sentences given below.
1. The boy was seen again on the road even today.
2. Francis looked at the injured dog with pity.
In both of the sentences, you can see that the definite article ‘the’ is used in the special sense of particularity or definiteness. In the first sentence, you can get the idea that the particular boy was seen before too on the road by someone, and in the second sentence, you are likely to get the idea that Francis looked at the particular dog that was injured. This is an important observation to make while using the definite article. As you can see these two sentences also agree with the Oxford Dictionary definition of the definite article. As the sentence suggests, the boy is a person of common knowledge, or he is someone already been mentioned by the speaker. The injured dog also refers to a dog that has been already mentioned.
What is an Indefinite Article?
On the other hand, the indefinite article is used to modify non-specific or non-particular nouns. As Oxford Dictionary says, ” A determiner (a and an in English) that introduces a noun phrase and implies that the thing referred to is non-specific (as in “she bought me a book”; “governing is an art”; “he went to a public school”). Typically, the indefinite article is used to introduce new concepts into a discourse.” Now, let us have a look at some example.
1. Angela ate an apple in the morning during her breakfast.
2. Francis looked at a bus moving across the road.
In both of the sentences, you can find that the indefinite articles ‘an’ and ‘a’ are used in introducing non-specific objects. Hence, you get the idea from the first sentence that Angela ate an apple in the morning during her breakfast. It could be any kind of an apple. In the same way, you get the idea from the second sentence that Francis looked at a bus moving across the road. We have no idea what kind of a bus it was. There is no specification of these nouns.
What is the difference between Definite and Indefinite Articles?
• Definite article in English is ‘the.’ Indefinite article in English are ‘a’ and ‘an.’
• Definite article gives a special or a definite sense to the noun that comes after it. However, the indefinite article only gives a non-specific sense to the noun that follows it.
• There is only one definite article in English, but there are two definite articles in English.