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What Is a Grammatical Article? (With Examples)

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Published: February 20, 2020 (Updated: May 13, 2022)

Understanding what a grammatical article is and how to use it in a sentence is important for improving your language skills. When you improve your skills, you can increase the quality of your content to get better search rankings and increase your audience satisfaction. In this guide, we discuss topics like:

What Is a Grammatical Article?

hands on a table with written lined paper contemplating a grammatical article

Photo from Pexels by @todoran-bogdan-256061

A grammatical article is a word that defines specific or non-specific nouns. The three words that qualify as articles in the English language are “a,” “an,” and “the.” The language uses those words in different situations, including:

Definite Article

The definite article, “the,” is used to define a specific noun. For instance, “I went to the store” is a statement with a definite article. It’s not a general place someone went, it’s a specific store. The person receiving the information would likely know which store is being discussed based on additional context or prior information.

Indefinite Article

The indefinite articles, “a” or “an” are used to describe singular, general nouns. For example, “I wrote a book” is a statement with an indefinite article. It’s a statement that doesn’t require additional context to understand. You may use an indefinite article to talk about one singular item of many.

Choosing when to use “a” or “an” depends on the noun’s spelling and pronunciation. Most often, if the noun starts with a vowel, you use “an,” such as in the example “I bought an apple.” If the word starts with a consonant, you use “a,” such as in the statement “I returned a sweatshirt.” As with other rules in the English language, there are exceptions for words with the letter “h” or the letter “u.”

Examples of Grammatical Articles

Let’s look at a few examples of definite and indefinite articles used in a sentence.

Definite Articles

Each of these sample sentences contains a definite article:

  • Please give me the screwdriver.
  • Please give me the green screwdriverThe yellow one is too small.
  • Please give me the large hammer. It’s the only one that tightens this nail.
  • Please give me the screwdriver and the hammer.

Indefinite Articles

Each of these example sentences contains an indefinite article:

  • Please get me a drink; any drink will suffice.
  • Please get me an iced tea; any flavor will do.

Grammatical Article Exceptions

As mentioned, there are a few exceptions to using grammatical articles in the English language. Those exceptions include:

Choice of “a” and “an”

Any word that begins with the silent consonant “h”, such as “honor,” “honest,” or “heir,” uses “an”. That’s because the silent “h” consonant sounds like a vowel. This principle also applies to acronyms. Though the acronym for search engine optimization, SEO, starts with the consonant “s,” the pronunciation of the word sounds like it begins with a vowel. A similar pronunciation would be in the words “estimate” or “escalator.” Using the acronym in a sentence would read: “The company used an SEO expert.”

Though it’s rarer, the rule also works with the opposite situation: when a word starts with a vowel but sounds like it begins with a consonant. For example, the word “united” starts with a vowel, but the beginning of the word sounds like the words, “yes” or “year,” which uses the consonant “y.” So, you would use “a” instead of “an.” An example sentence would read: “I wanted to form a united front.”

Grammatical Articles Before the Adjective

Articles can modify both a noun and an adjective in the same sentence. If you’re using an indefinite article, use the adjective to determine whether you use “a” or “an.” Here are some example sentences with adjectives and nouns:

  • John will bring a big gift to the company’s holiday party.
  • I read an intriguing book last week.
  • Today is the perfect day for a walk.

Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns can help you take ownership of an item within a sentence, whether or not it’s being specified. However, it’s not advised to use a possessive pronoun and an article in the same sentence because the reader may become confused by the word structure. For example, “Why are you drinking my the milk?” is an incorrect, and confusing, sentence. Therefore, use either a possessive pronoun or an article to form a coherent sentence. Both examples below are applicable:

  • Why are you drinking the milk?
  • Why are you drinking my milk?

When Can You Omit Grammatical Articles?

Though it’s important to remember where to place articles, it’s equally important to learn when you can omit them. Here are a few examples of when it’s okay to drop the article in a sentence:

Fixed Expressions

It’s possible you might not need an article when using fixed expressions. Fixed expressions are phrases that have one specific meaning. They don’t always follow rules of grammar and, sometimes, when you correct the grammar, it makes the phrase sound unnatural. It can also change the meaning. For example, if you write “I met him at school,” the sentence is referring to meeting someone while you were a student. But if you write “I met him at the school,” it’s referring to how you met in a physical building.

Uncountable Nouns

Uncountable nouns are intangible items. They include things like the amount of air you breathe or the water and coffee you drink. You can’t use an indefinite article in a sentence with an uncountable noun. For example, “Give me some water,” is an acceptable statement. If you were to add an article like “Give me a water,” or “Give me the water” it doesn’t sound right. Though most could infer the meaning, it doesn’t follow grammar rules.

To fix this issue, add a tangible noun. For instance, you could write the sentence, “Give me a glass of water.” By stating you want one glass of water, you can add the indefinite article.

Other General Omissions

There are some other areas in the English language where you can omit articles from sentences. Here are some of those general omissions:

  • Names of languages: “French is one of the romantic languages.”
  • After possessives: “Jessica’s food was cold.”
  • With professions: “Accounting often involves a lot of math.”
  • Names of mountains, lakes, and islands: “This week, we traveled to Lake Michigan.”
  • Other titles and proper names: “Yesterday, we attended the coronation of King Edward.”

What’s More Important: Content or Grammar?

Though it’s important for audiences to find your content useful and interesting, having poor spelling or grammar might damage people’s perception of your brand. Disruptive Communications conducted a study that stated 42.5% of consumers are most likely to turn away from a brand if it has spelling or grammar mistakes. Focusing on good grammar in your writing can benefit your business in several ways, including:

User Experience

When you focus on good spelling and grammar, it can make your content easier to read and understand. That can help improve your audiences’ user experience, which can entice them to read more of your content in the future. It can also encourage them to share your content with others. If you have a lot of spelling and grammar mistakes, even if the information is good, people may find it harder to read and be less likely to share that content with their friends and family.

Credibility

Most often, people associate spelling or grammar mistakes with spam. That can lower their trust in your brand and the products or services you provide. Leads may wonder if you can’t spend the time to fix spelling or grammar mistakes in your content, how much attention will you actually give to your customers? Editing and reading through your content for errors can help show your professionalism and improve your credibility.

Rankings

While Google may not directly penalize your content’s rankings for poor spelling or grammar, it can affect your ranking in other ways. If people leave your site because of its quality, that can negatively affect your bounce rate. Your bounce rate shows how long someone spends on a webpage before they leave or “bounce” to a new one. Webpages with high bounce rates tell Google that the content might be of inferior quality or unhelpful to the user, thus ranking the page lower on search results.

If your content has poor grammar or spelling, it can also affect the number of backlinks it receives. When other websites think your content is inferior, they’re less likely to link back to it. The fewer backlinks you have, the less likely Google is to rank your content. Fixing mistakes can help show other domains that your website is high quality, which can encourage them to link to it. Looking to discover what other hidden rules may affect your content strategy? Request your content analysis report from CopyPress today to see how your online resources stack up against your competitors.

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General Grammar Rules to Remember for Content Writing

Good grammar, along with understanding more about a grammatical article, can help you create high-quality written content. That’s why it’s helpful to review some common grammar rules. Here are some general grammar rules to consider when writing your content:

Adjectives and Adverbs Describe

Adjectives are words that describe a noun. You usually place adjectives in front of the noun you’re describing. For example, “It’s a beautiful day.” The word “beautiful” describes the day. You can also place adjectives after the noun if you connect them using a form of the verb “to be.” For example, “The sun is bright.”

Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. You usually place adverbs after the verb they’re modifying. For example, “I ran quickly.” The word “quickly” describes how the person ran. Most often, you can create adverbs by adding “-ly” to the end of adjectives. However, some irregular adverbs don’t follow that rule. For instance, the word “hard” is both an adjective and an adverb:

  • “It’s a hard floor.”
  • “The ball was thrown hard.”

Conjunctions Connect Thoughts

Conjunctions connect two related thoughts or statements, which can help readers better understand your content. The most common conjunctions you can use include:

  • And: The word “and” helps you describe an addition to your thought. For example, “He likes baseball, and he plays for the local team.”
  • Or: The word “or,” allows you to mention an alternative. For example, “You can perform your own SEO, or you can hire an SEO specialist.”
  • Because: The word “because” gives a reason for the original statement. For example, “I’m studying Spanish because I want to live abroad.”
  • So: The word “so” describes a consequence that resulted from the original statement. For example, “I couldn’t see out of the window, so I cleaned it.”
  • But: The word “but” allows you to mention a contrasting idea. For example, “I wanted to go to work today, but I was sick.”

Homophones May Confuse

Homophones are words that sound similar but have different meanings. For example, the words “there,” “their,” and “they’re” are pronounced exactly the same, but they’re spelled differently and you use them in different situations. Having a better understanding of homophones and where to use them can help improve your content and make you more mindful of potential grammar or spelling mistakes. Here are some other common homophones to look out for:

  • “You’re” and “your”
  • “Here” and “hear”
  • “It’s” and “its”
  • “Flour” and “flower”
  • “Hour” and “our”
  • “Break” and “brake”

Conjugations Take Practice

Conjugations are the different verb forms used to ensure the statement makes sense and is in the correct tense. Most verbs have different conjugations for past and present tense, and plural or singular subjects. For example, the verb “to go” has the following conjugations:

  • Go
  • Going
  • Gone
  • Went

When you use the right conjugation, it can help improve your content’s grammar and quality. One of the trickiest conjugations that writers often forget is using the right verb tense for plural and singular statements, especially when making a list.

For example, let’s say you’re making a list of pets in your house. You might write, “There is a dog, two cats, and a parrot.” The verb “to be” uses the singular form “is” because the first item on the list is the singular, “dog.” However, if the list started with the cats, the conjugation would need to change. For example, “There are two cats, a dog, and a parrot.”

Commas Have Specific Purposes

The rules for commas may be some of the hardest to remember, but learning them can help you write more high-quality content. Here are some common rules for commas for you to review:

  • Between two clauses: When combining two clauses, it’s important to use a comma to join them together. For example, “If my dog does well with his training, I’ll give him an extra treat.”
  • Around non-essential clauses: If you add extra information to the middle of a sentence, you need to add commas before and after the clause. For example, “I met Stephanie, my neighbor, shortly after I moved into the apartment.”
  • After some conjunctions: Some conjunctions require a comma after them. The most common is the word “however.” For example, “The cup of coffee excited me. However, they were out of cream.”
  • Before some conjunctions: If conjunctions join two statements that could each be their own sentence without the conjunction, it’s important to separate them with a comma. For example, “This application is excellent, but the deadline for applications is now closed.”
  • In lists: When you make lists, it’s important to separate the items on the list with commas. For example, “I ate three eggs, two pieces of toast, and two apples for breakfast.”

For the last rule, making lists, there are two ways you can write your lists: with or without the Oxford comma. The Oxford or serial comma is a punctuation mark placed before the conjunction “and” or “or.” It’s acceptable to both use the Oxford comma or omit it based on audience expectation and publisher’s rules. It’s most important to stay consistent with using or not using it throughout your content.

Helpful Grammar-Checking Tools

Here are some helpful tools you can use to check your content’s grammar and spelling:

Editors and QA Specialists

Why mess with a classic? Editors and quality assurance (QA) specialists are great to have on your content marketing team. They can help check your content for errors before posting it and make sure each webpage is following a consistent style. Being consistent with your style can help increase your brand awareness and make your content easily recognizable by anyone who reads it.

Though a team of editors and quality assurance specialists can be expensive, there are other options, such as hiring a content marketing company, like CopyPress. Our team of expert writers, editors, and QA staff helps you create engaging, high-quality content to attract your audience and improve your customer outreach. Schedule a free call with us today to find out more about our services and how we can help your content marketing campaign.

Grammarly

Grammarly is an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that checks your writing for grammar and spelling mistakes. You can copy and paste your content into its web app to check your content for common errors. You can also download a plug-in for your web browser to check your writing as you go. It offers options to change the language to check for grammar and spelling errors in different dialects of English, like Australian, Canadian, American, or British English.

ProWritingAid

ProWritingAid is a tool very similar to Grammarly. It checks your content for spelling and grammar mistakes. It also has a web app or a plug-in you can install on your web browser. However, ProWritingAid differs from Grammarly because it can help check your content for passive voice. Though it’s not a requirement for you to write your content in active voice, it can help keep your readers engaged for a longer time.

Improving your grammar and spelling is a great way to attract more readers to your content and improve their overall satisfaction. Though learning more about articles is a great place to start, it’s also helpful to improve your overall knowledge of grammar, spelling, and editing to make sure your content is as high quality as possible.

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