We use a/an with singular countable nouns:
- There is a basket.
- I have an apple. (Use an (
a) before vowels)
- She is a good person. It is an interesting book. (a/an + adjective + singular countable noun)
- I am a teacher. He is an engineer. (a/an + job (singular countable noun))
- I have a hundred phone numbers. There are a million people. (a hundred = one hundred; a million = one million)
- I brush my teeth twice a day. I have English classes once a week. (twice a day = twice each day; once a week = once each week)
A/an is the indefinite article. The is the definite article. We use a/an for new information, and we use the when information is not new, and our listener or reader understands which thing we mean:
- I have a computer. The computer is grey.
- There is an apple. The apple is green.
- There are students in the classroom (we understand which classroom). The students are talking. (
a students; we can use the with plural nouns, but we cannot use a/an with plural nouns)
- The sun is shining. The moon is full. (there is only one sun/moon)
- I like cats (I like all cats). I like the cats (I like these particular cats).
- Juice is good for health (juice is generally/always good for health). The juice is tasty (this juice is tasty).
When you are ready, learn more rules about articles: “Articles: Basic Rules” and “Articles: Intermediate – Advanced.”
We use some and any with plural countable nouns and uncountable nouns. We use some in affirmative statements:
- I have some bananas. (bananas – plural countable noun)
- I have some water. (water – uncountable noun)
We use any in negatives and questions:
- I don’t have any bananas.
- Do you have any water?
When you ask for something, use some:
- Can I have some tea?
- I’d like some tea, please.
When you offer something to someone, use some:
- Would you like some coffee?
- Do you want some tea with your lunch?
We can use some and any without a noun when it is clear what we are talking about:
- Sorry, I don’t have any. (see the picture above)
- I’m making some tea. Would you like some?
- How much water is there? – There isn’t any.
There are two ways to make a sentence negative – with not and with no:
- There are not (aren’t) any oranges. = There are no oranges.
- There is not (isn’t) any time. = There is no time.
- I do not (don’t) have any time. = I have no time.
- I am not (I’m not) doing any work. = I’m going no work.
Not is for a verb, and no is for a noun: there aren’t any oranges; there are no oranges.
We cannot use no and any together:
there is no any time. There is no time or There isn’t any time. The same is true for a/an, the and some. We call such words determiners. Don’t use 2 determiners before 1 noun, choose the determiner you need: a/an, the, some, any or no.
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