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Using A and An

A or An are used before nouns to talk about something the listener or reader does not know about.

A cartoon mouse has its head in a mouse trap. The nurse is asking him what is his problem.

I have a problem. Do you know what it is?

• I was born in a town.
(The reader doesn’t know which town and no vowel sound so, a)
• They are a company which sells chocolate.
(lots of companies sell chocolate so the listener doesn’t know which company is being talked about and no vowel sound so, a)
• I want to buy an umbrella.
(There are lots of umbrellas to buy, but we don’t know which one. Here there is a vowel sound so we use an)

Remember: The first time you talk about something use a or an.
  • A before nouns
    A should be used before countable nouns that talk about one person or thing. (3:15)

    A or An before nouns?
    An should be used before nouns that talk about one person or thing, and begin with a vowel sound (a, e, i, o, u). (3:15)

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