Meanings of articles

Last Modified: 2/1/04

This is a list of all the meanings of the definite and indefinite articles in English. The definitions are from the webster's dictionary, different foreign language resources, online websites, and my own intuition.

note: i didn't use meanings of 'the' or 'a' that i found weren't an "article" usage. I have provided a lot of examples because some of these are pretty subtle.

T* = the, A* = a/an, N* = [none]


TA. a certain one being spoken of/already mentioned (introduced by AA).
-The story ended.
-So then I smacked the guy.

TB. hypothetical instance of (introduced by AB).
-I want a girlfriend. The girl has to be cute.
-I need some paint. The paint is going to be used here.

TC. the one and only (geographic/environmental/locational)
-The sun is very hot today. (both occurances here)
-The sky is bright today.
-The world is falling apart.
-I don't like the weather.
-He came to us from the north.
-I walked to the edge and contemplated jumping. (the edge of a cliff)
-Let's meet at the entrance.
-Where is the bathroom?

TD. the one identified by/as (the modifier of the noun)
-the man who answered (as opposed to the one who ignored his phone)
-the hit of the week (as opposed to the hit of the year)
-the right to strike (as opposed to the right to remain silent)
-You can be the father in our play.
-The purple people eater is here to get us!
-What is the point of your story?
-The coffee in my cup is hot.
-Which one was the movie that you hate?
-We take the air we breathe for granted.

TE. an integral part or clothing of the obvious entity (possessives can also
be used for these in english)
-I smacked him in the face.
-Take me by the hand.
-You should hold your mug by the handle.
-The surface is extremely hot, don't touch it.
-I held him by the collar.

TF. that which is present/close, as opposed to remote
-The day has just started (as opposed to the next day)
-Where has the year gone?

TG. the one designated/named. related to NC.
-the President (of the u.s.)
-the Mississippi (river)
-the United States

TH. the one considered the best, most fashionable (usually emphasized)
-That is *the* restaurant in town.

TI. specified period of time
-the dark ages
-the seventies

TJ. taken as a representative of the entire genus or type
-I'm learning how to use the typewriter.
-The cow is a domestic animal.

TK. for an adjective used as a noun
-the good, the beautiful, the true


AA. a certain one speaker has in mind.
-I saw a burning house on the way to the store.
-He has a nice car/some nice cars.
-I'm going to marry a Swede. (in response to: what is the nationality of
your fiancee?)

AB. any one of them in existence
-I need a girlfriend.
-I'm going to marry a Swede. (in response to: In twenty years, what type of
person will you marry?)
-I need some paint.

AC. in copulas, equality
-I am a doctor.
-That is a harmless snake.
-As a young girl she slacked off in school.


NA: a discrete amount of (for a non-count noun). (the word "some" can always
be used before the noun).
-I need water.
-We need rocks for this project.

NB: generalizations, applying to all the members of a type of
-Gold is very valuable.
-Guns are dangerous.
-I really don't like stupid dogs.
-He lacks intelligence.
-Anger is a destructive emotion.
-We really hate school.

NC: proper nouns. related to TG.
-Let's run away to Mexico.
-Where is Main Street?
-I don't speak Greek.


Here is how they are organized in Minyeva:

1 = AA,AC: "da" = used for introducing a particular entity in mind
2 = TA,TB: "te" = referring back to an introduced entity
3 = TJ,TK,AB,NA,NB: "ki" = generic members/representative members
4 = TC,TD,TE,TI: "sao" = the one identified as, the only one
5 = NC,TG: "cai" = used for names
6 = TF: "kre" (this) = demonstrative used here.
7 = TH: syntactic construction: the most ~.

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copyright 2004 by Garrett Jones