The adjectives an, a, and the, also called articles, are used as follows:
A book, an apple, means any book or any apple, and not a particular book or apple.
An or a is called the indefinite article because it indicates any one of the things for which the noun stands.
A boy, a top, a horse, a bird, a pen, a house.
A is used before words beginning with a consonant sound.
An hour, an instant, an order, an urgent request, an evening, an honest man.
An is used before words beginning with a vowel sound.
The article an or a, meaning one, may be classed as an adjective of quantity.
In such expressions as to go a hunting, a is not an article, but a preposition.
Study these sentences:
1. The man bought a black and white horse.
2. The man bought a black and a white horse.
It is said of the man in the first sentence that he bought one horse of two colors; in the second that he bought two horses, one black and the other white.
It will be seen that when two or more words refer to the same person or thing, the indefinite article should be used before the first only; but when the words refer to different persons or things, the article should be repeated before each.
1. There stands the boy of whom you were speaking.
2. I met the Macdonalds last evening.
3. The French, the Spanish, the Ohio, the army.
The is called the definite article because it is used to point out objects definitely.
1. The architect and builder called at my house.
2. The architect and the builder called at my house.
In the first sentence the architect and builder are the same person. In the second sentence the architect is one person and the builder a different person.
A study of these sentences shows that when two or more words refer to the same person or thing the definite article should be used before the first only; but when the words refer to different persons or things, the article should be repeated before each.
1. The first and the second boy in the line.
2. The first and second boys in the line.
When two or more adjectives do not describe the same thing, the definite article is repeated before each, if the noun is in the singular; but it is used with the first only if the noun is in the plural.
In such expressions as, "The more you study, the more you learn," the is not an article, but an adverb.