What is an article? Is it merely words arranged for the sole purpose of describing and promoting something? Is it an article of art? Is it an essay? No, what is an article is a part of literary language and as such has its own peculiarities and limitations. An article is any constituent of a literary class, specifically any member of a category of written words which are used in place of nouns to denote the recognibilty of the relevant referents of these nouns.
As a pre-requisite to understanding what is an article, it would be most prudent for a person to understand the different grammatical categories and their constituents. An article is made up of definite and indefinite articles, negatives, and pronouns. It goes without saying that the indefinite articles are also indefinite in tense as well. In English, indefinite articles are sometimes used to describe objects. These are pronouns and so – I, you, he, she, etc.
Now that we have understood what an article is and the parts of the language used to define it, let us proceed with the aspects of English grammar that makes it so very complicated and opaque at the same time. A good illustration of such complexities and opaque aspects of English grammar is that the mere idea of what is an article in its strictest sense is very difficult to understand. After all, an article is a definite article and yet cannot be both definite and indefinite. And yet English grammar permits one or more indefinite articles in a sentence. For instance, we often use “the” as a definite article in sentences concerning time and dates and the like. But “the” can also be used as an indefinite article, if it follows immediately after the subject.
How do you understand what is an article in this context? Well, you have to remember that there are two types of indefinite articles in English – the definite article and the indefinite article which follow a noun. In fact, there are three types of indefinite articles – the single noun, the pronouns and the articles used with a single noun or a pronoun. So the basic difference between a definite article and an indefinite article is that a definite article is always a noun while the other two types are pronouns or objects of nouns.
English has its own peculiarities regarding how to use articles in relation to number and countable nouns. The article “the” in a sentence with a single subject is usually grammatically examined as a countable noun, while it is grammatically treated as an uncountable noun. Thus “the dog” is treated as a countable noun in a sentence concerning dogs while “the dog’s” is grammatically treated as an uncountable noun. There are also some English words such as “the dog” that are always treated as pronouns while there are some words such as “man” that are always treated as articles.
The important thing about English article grammar is that it has to be organized so that each of the elements of the word are placed at the right place, i.e. the right position for each word is the front of the tongue or the back of the tongue depending on which way the article is written. For example, the article “the man” always starts from the front of the mouth, while the article “the man’s” always starts from the back of the mouth. Similarly, the word “the man’s” should be written as “the man” and not as “thou” or “thy”.
Note that the articles “the”, “the man” and “the woman” must always be written with the vowel or the consonant that comes last i.e. either vowel or consonant at the back of the tongue depending on which way the article is written. As an example, the word “the man” always has the vowel at the back of the tongue (for example, the u) while “the man’s” has the vowel at the very beginning of the word (for example, o). Note that if you are confused about what is an article, don’t worry as it is very simple.
What is an article depends on the type of a noun as mentioned above. A sentence can be composed of one, two or more articles; the most common type of article is the definite article which simply states a noun as a noun, or a noun followed by another word to indicate the exact location of that noun in the sentence. For example, “The man’s” is used to refer to a single person; “the man’s house” to indicate where the man resides; “the man’s boat” to indicate where the boat is located; “the man’s car” for a single automobile and so on. Other articles are sometimes used but not in all types of sentences because they are not counted as definite articles.