73 votes
Accepted

Should I use "a" or "an" when I abbreviate a word?

Whether you say a or an is determined by the pronunciation of the next word, and nothing else. If the next word begins with a consonant sound (not necessarily a consonant letter!), you say a, and if ...
stangdon's user avatar
  • 40.8k
41 votes
Accepted

Is it "the" or "a" in “The life of __ peasant”?

Of course in most contexts we use a to refer to a generic, non-specific example of some class (or the first mention of a specific member of that class), and the to refer to a specific previously-...
randomhead's user avatar
  • 21.1k
34 votes

"he has piano class" or "he has a piano class"?

Just to add another perspective for what it's worth. In American English, everyone I know would say "I have piano class" without the a. Similarly, we would say: "I have basketball ...
automaton's user avatar
  • 469
29 votes

"She speaks an impeccable English" vs "She speaks impeccable English"

Some words and phrases in English can be either countable or uncountable. The difference in meaning between the two is often subtle. Sometimes the difference can shift us from a general concept to a ...
Jay's user avatar
  • 65.6k
29 votes

Why is it the indefinite article in 'training of an older generation'? Shouldn't it be 'the' here?

Either the definite or indefinite article is possible here. As a native English speaker, I would prefer the indefinite in this context, but it is a very weak preference. Basically, it comes down to ...
KRyan's user avatar
  • 4,973
28 votes
Accepted

Should I say "sent by post" or "sent by a post"?

"Post" in this sense is an uncountable or mass noun (as noted by Longman), so you'd always say "by post" (or "in the post", "via post" or "by mail"), ...
rjpond's user avatar
  • 23.1k
27 votes

Why "stepped off the train" instead of "stepped off a train"?

Simply put, it's a specific train. It's the train that took her to California on a specific occasion when she made a specific declaration. So there's a time, a place, a person, and all these details ...
Astralbee's user avatar
  • 101k
26 votes
Accepted

The indefinite article with an amount modified by an adjective: "It cost a mere 20 dollars."

The reason why the first example does not use an article while the two others do is because the first does not refer to a specific amount. If instead of an unspecific number of minutes you were to ...
AngelPray's user avatar
  • 877
26 votes
Accepted

When refer something immediately after it, should I use "a" or "the"?

There is only one term "proxy data sets". There isn't another term that is also "proxy data sets" (like there is only one number 17. There aren't two different numbers among all the numbers we know ...
The Photon's user avatar
  • 10.4k
25 votes

Should I use "a" or "an" when I abbreviate a word?

These are actually called acronyms or initialisms. The few editing guides I checked (like this one from the American Psychological Association) say to use this guide: The general rule for ...
Andrew's user avatar
  • 88.3k
24 votes
Accepted

Why is there the indefinite article in: “a Victorian 23 knots”?

A Victorian 23 knots means "23 knots, which is a speed you would have expected in the Victorian era"—that is, during the reign of Queen Victoria, 1837-1901.
StoneyB on hiatus's user avatar
24 votes
Accepted

Does the noun 'English' have to be always uncountable?

You would be wise not to depend solely on Grammarly for your grammar advice. You may safely ignore its advice for what it alleges to be your 'mistakes'. You can use an indefinite article before most ...
Michael Harvey's user avatar
23 votes

"I am [the / an] owner of a bookstore"?

If the bookstore you own has only one owner (you), then, "I am the owner of a bookstore." is correct. If there are other owners of that bookstore (i.e. you are a co-owner), then you should say, "I am ...
Lorel C.'s user avatar
  • 11.6k
23 votes
Accepted

"he has piano class" or "he has a piano class"?

1: He has a piano class at 5 o'clock 2: He has piano class at 5 o'clock "Somebody" told the OP incorrect information. Both sentences are syntactically fine, but version #2 without the ...
FumbleFingers's user avatar
22 votes

Michael is a New Zealander or Michael is New Zealander? Article before nationalities?

No, you can't, because you have two nouns on the both sides of "is", and because "New Zealander" is a single countable noun. If you had an adjective, you would have used no article: Michael is ...
CowperKettle's user avatar
  • 36.6k
21 votes
Accepted

The atom or an atom?

This is the use of the for "the prototype", "the abstract", "X-s in general". We see it also in the phrase that used to be common in the middle of the last century "splitting the atom". It used to ...
Colin Fine's user avatar
  • 75.3k
19 votes

Article usage before "historical"

The simple rule is, "Use 'a' before a word that begins with a consonant sound. Use 'an' before a word that begins with a vowel sound." As Stangdon notes in his comment on another answer, the key is ...
Jay's user avatar
  • 65.6k
19 votes
Accepted

An "a" article doesn't become a "the" despite the fact it was already mentioned

With her watching, I'm a liar. She's a fake. She's the liar. The noun "liar" here does not take "the" because it was just mentioned. You can say: I am a liar. She's a fake. She's a liar. That ...
CowperKettle's user avatar
  • 36.6k
19 votes

Should I say "sent by post" or "sent by a post"?

No, by here shows the method in use, how the action of sending documents is done - by post. It's an uncountable noun which refers to the public system for collecting and delivering of letters, so a ...
Andrew Tobilko's user avatar
18 votes
Accepted

"Listen my dear two-year-old son, this is (a) cat, and that is (a) dog." -- Leaving out the article in definitions like this

When you give a definition for a word, don't you usually say something like this A cat is a four-legged animal with ... or this? Schizophrenic means ... I don't think you should drop the ...
cathygomez's user avatar
18 votes
Accepted

"A dreadful five minutes" - what about the article?

"Gary [...] has had to endure a dreadful five minutes." in this five minutes has become a single item a single collection of minutes. A single dreadful block of five minutes. Here are more examples ...
WendyG's user avatar
  • 2,462
17 votes

"She speaks an impeccable English" vs "She speaks impeccable English"

I'm not going to tell you in absolute terms that #1 is never a valid sentence but I can still tell you that they are not going to mean the same thing. It is not the case that the first one is "more ...
shawnt00's user avatar
  • 763
17 votes
Accepted

A doctor VS. the doctor ?

First, I must address what you said here: Because he didn’t mention any doctor before saying “the doctor”. You can read in another ELL answer that there are in fact other uses for the definite ...
J.R.'s user avatar
  • 110k
17 votes
Accepted

Using "a" with the word "slang"

"Slang" as a noun refers to the entire body of very informal language and terms, not just one word. So, we would say "it is a slang word", not "it is a slang". That would ...
Astralbee's user avatar
  • 101k
16 votes
Accepted

Michael is a New Zealander or Michael is New Zealander? Article before nationalities?

You could say "Michael is German", however "German" in this sentence is interpreted as an adjective, not a noun. It would also be correct grammatically to say "Michael is a German", although this is ...
ghostarbeiter's user avatar
16 votes

"She speaks an impeccable English" vs "She speaks impeccable English"

The other answers are baffling me. As a native speaker of American English, #1 sounds absolutely wrong. You don't speak "an English", so you can't speak "an impeccable English". You speak "English"...
BradC's user avatar
  • 2,764
16 votes
Accepted

is it "a M" or "an M"

It is one of the extremely rare universal rules of English: the indefinite article an is used with words that begin with vowel sounds, and a with words that begin with consonant sounds. Note that this ...
choster's user avatar
  • 17.7k
16 votes
Accepted

Is it true that if we start a sentence with 'the', this 'the' can be omitted?

There are some general rules about when a "the" is or is not required. Plural nouns referring to specific things In the specific three examples you provided, the inclusion or exclusion of the "the" ...
TechnoCat's user avatar
  • 2,210
16 votes

Is it "the" or "a" in “The life of __ peasant”?

We can use the indefinite article (a peasant) if we are discussing an unknown peasant, or the definite article if we are discussing the generic peasant (considered as a type of person). Either is ...
Michael Harvey's user avatar
15 votes
Accepted

a sore throat vs a strep throat vs strep throat

There's little consistency in the articles we use (or don't use) with names of illnesses. Ex: I have a cold I have the flu I have diarrhea Strep or strep throat is one of the many illnesses that do ...
Juhasz's user avatar
  • 9,794

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