It may be obvious from the title of the question (or it may be not, I can't say) that I don't understand the concept of articles. I don't have them in my native language. We take the needed info from the context.

So sometimes, because of that, the articles seem to me superfluous to the sense of the sentence.

Can you explain to me once and forever, why they are not superfluous, and the rules for using them. I've seen many explanations, they didn't help. So I would try the new ones from here.

Give me three cases and explanations of them:

  1. The 'a' article.
  2. The 'the' article.
  3. The situation where I don't need an article.
  • 1
    Hi Egor, welcome to ELL. We expect people to do a bit of research before asking questions on ELL. In this case, there are plenty of web sites that explain about articles, for example this one: butte.edu/departments/cas/tipsheets/grammar/…. If it's still unclear after your research, please edit your question to provide details of your research, and to identify specific points that you found in your research and that you are still unsure about,.
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 28 at 11:15
  • If your native language doesn't have articles anyway, I'm surprised you phrased item #3: The situation where I don't need an article. Even native Anglophones (who do use articles, obviously! :) would be more likely to express that one using plurals. There's no need for articles in #3A: Situations where I don't need articles. Mar 28 at 14:26
  • I think this would be better dealt with by you studying a textbook on English. I mean, I could write the basics, but I guess you have already read a basic textbook. I would just be repeating what you already know. Perhaps there is a specific example in which you don't understand why an article is used (or not used).
    – James K
    Mar 28 at 15:23
  • Of course in a sense they are superfluous. So are lots of other things. I'm guessing (from your name) you speak a language with grammatical case. That is superfluous, but if you want to speak Russian, German, Ukrainian, Bulgarian (etc) you need to use it because that is rules for those languages. English has articles. The textbooks are the best attempts to explain the rules, and meanings, of those articles. How can we add anything more that hasn't already been said?
    – James K
    Mar 28 at 15:41
  • Does this answer your question? The rules of the definite and the indefinite articles
    – Lambie
    Mar 28 at 21:43

1 Answer 1


I'm guessing from your name that you speak a Slavic language. Slavic languages don't have articles, but you use declension of nouns to indicate the same thing.

Let's use the noun book to indicate the differences:

  • a book (indefinite article 'a' indicates one, unspecified book)
    for example "my friend bought a book"
  • the book (definite article 'the' indicates that you are referring to a specific book - perhaps one previously mentioned, or one your audience will understand you are referring to)
    for example "the book my friend bought is really interesting"

We don't use articles when using a plural (eg "my friend loves books").

We also don't use articles for uncountable nouns, for example, abstract concepts like 'love', or substances like water which are measured not counted.

I don't speak your language, but as I understand it, nouns change their form (or "decline") based on their grammatical case. For example, in Russian, a noun may change its ending depending on whether it's the subject, object, or possessive form in a sentence. In the two examples above, the book was the object in the first, and the subject in the second, which can affect the article used. As an object in that particular example, the specifics of the book don't matter, but as the subject, it must be something specific. According to a quick bit of Googling, in Russian, 'book' is книга when used as the subject and книгу when it is the direct object. So it seems the same is indicated by a suffix rather than an article. I hope that is correct and the comparison helps.

  • You say "the book was the object in the first, and the subject in the second, which affected the article used." I don't understand that, since the two articles could just as well have been reversed to "My friend bought the book" and "A book my friend bought is really interesting". Mar 28 at 17:41
  • @FumbleFingers maybe not in that example, then. But it can. You wouldn't normally say "A book my friend bought was interesting" unless you fully intended to reveal the name of the book and were building suspense. That's more of a device than a normal mode of speech.
    – Astralbee
    Mar 28 at 19:19
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    A general a often becomes a the in the next sentence: I saw a beautiful tree in the park. The tree was huge.
    – Lambie
    Mar 28 at 21:10
  • @Lambie: Good point. Not to mention which it's almost impossible for A tree was huge to be idiomatic. Mar 28 at 21:16
  • @lambie I can't disagree with your statement but I'm failing to see why you're making it. It proves what I said - that the definite article refers to things previously mentioned. If you mention something, and then mention it again, of course you are going to use the definite article. But your example of a tree is not helpful, because that word is not declined in Russian - it is always дерево. That's why I used 'book'.
    – Astralbee
    Mar 29 at 11:33

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