Transition to American Academic English


Almost every noun (name of something) in formal English has a determiner (a word which tells us what sort of thing it is). Some determiners carry a lot of information ("blue" or "my"), while others carry relatively little information ("a" "an" "the"). These little words, the articles ("a" "an" "the"), cause trouble for second-language speakers.

An exception to this rule is nouns that refer to whole categories. They do not usually have determiners:

Definite and indefinite articles

These little words do not carry much meaning, but they do carry some.

a, an, and

Even speakers whose first language is English sometimes have trouble with these.

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Revised 12/19/18 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: