Today, let’s discuss the use of articles. There are only three, so they are easy to remember: “the,” “a,” and “an.”

The

The is rarely used incorrectly. It is used when you are referring the “only one” of something.

Example: Hand me the cup on the table.

You are stating there is only one cup on the table and you want it.

A

A is more general. It means there is more than one of something, but you only need one. “A” is used when the word following it begins with a consonant.

Example: Hand me a cup from the table.

Obviously, there is more than one cup on the table, but you only need one, and you aren’t too particular about which one. It can be any of them.

An

An is used just as “a,” but with the exception that the word following it begins with a vowel.

Example: I want an egg for breakfast.

You have a choice of many things for breakfast, and maybe you could have many eggs, but you only want one.

Acronyms and Abbreviations

Acronyms and abbreviations seem to trip people up, but the rule stays essentially the same with only one minor change: “a” precedes a word with a consonant sound and “an” precedes a word with a vowel sound.

Examples:

The London Wildcats were a UHL team.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are an NHL team.

My daughter is a YWAM volunteer.

My son is an FBI agent.

In the case of acronyms and abbreviations, write and speak according to how the reader is going to say it or the listener is going to hear it. Very few (if any) readers are going to see NFL in a sentence and read it “National Football League.” Therefore, you would us “an” in front of NFL because it is proper, and it is less awkward than saying “a.”