In the English language, there seems to be a term for any word that shows up in a sentence; be it a noun, verb, adjective, etc. What's the correct term for "a" or "an" in a sentence? This is actually much harder to Google than it sounds due to Google stripping out simple words such as "a" and "an".

  • The terms, as a group, are known as the parts of speech, by the way. Dec 4 '15 at 4:46

Those words are known as indefinite articles — "indefinite" because they don't refer to a specific/particular thing, like the definite article, "the", does. They do refer to an individual thing; it's just not any particular one that's been singled out previously.

There are also so-called zero articles. These show up when no word at all is used as an article, such as before "so-called" in the previous sentence, which could have been worded as "There is also a so-called […]". This is usually to indicate a group, rather than an individual. (Both definite and indefinite articles, while usually referring to an individual thing, can be used to refer to an individual characterizing a group, and therefore to the group as a whole by extension.)

"Some" is sometimes considered an article as well, as in "He had some ninety-nine answers."

  • Perfect, exactly what I was looking for, thank you. Dec 4 '15 at 3:15
  • @Refutinglogic: While I'm certainly grateful for the checkmark, you might want to wait a while longer before settling down. Dec 4 '15 at 3:17
  • I think the first paragraph is excellent. The second para could do with much more clarity. I'd never heard of zero articles before, and am very interested. However I don't feel any more informed about them, even after reading the paragraph about them.
    – Euan M
    Dec 4 '15 at 3:28
  • @EuanM: Hmm. Hopefully that's better. I originally intended merely to introduce the names, but I guess it makes sense to very briefly summarize their function as well. Dec 4 '15 at 3:32
  • 1
    @NES: Is that clearer? Dec 4 '15 at 3:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.