In a recent study we conducted to analyze our clients’ writing mistakes, we discovered that our clients frequently misused determiners like articles (a, an, and the). In fact, an overwhelming 62% of grammar mistakes found in their writing was related to article use. This statistic is understandable when many of our clients’ native languages might not use words like “a,” “an,” and “the.” Upon further examination of our clients’ writing, we realized that much of the article misuse might have arisen from a misunderstanding of how to treat countable and uncountable nouns.
- Countable nouns are nouns that can be counted (e.g., apples and ideas).
- Uncountable nouns are nouns that can’t be counted (e.g., research and water).
To help correct this problem, we’ve prepared a flowchart that will help you navigate article usage based on whether a noun is countable or uncountable.
*To download, click on the link at the top of this article (just below the article title).
Keep in mind that these rules are general, and as with many aspects of the English language, there are some exceptions. To learn more about these exceptions, please feel free to click on the links below.
- EnglishPage: 25 rules about using “a” vs. “an”
- “Comprehensive List of Rules and Exceptions” from The Article Book by Tom Cole.
We hope these grammar tips have helped clarify how to use articles like “a,” “an,” and “the” in your research and academic writing! Now that you are pros, let your writing shine!