Shawn
Community Tutor
A Short Story to Demonstrate the Use of Articles in American English

A boy and a girl walked up a dirt path that leads through the woods by their home to a waterfall.

 

1. a boy and a girl: I am introducing two characters for the first time here so I need to use "a".

 

2. a dirt path: I am introducing the path for the first time and not being specific.

 

3. the woods: I am speaking about a particular woods. Moreover, it is being modified by a prepositional phrase which uniquely identifies it.

 

4. a waterfall: I am introducing the waterfall for the first time. There could also be other waterfalls nearby.

 

The boy arrived first and when he reached the waterfall, he shouted, "Hey, look at the fish swimming in the pool this waterfall dumps into."

 

5. the boy: mentioned before

 

6. the waterfall: mentioned before

 

7. the fish: "Swimming in the pool this water dumps into" uniquely identifies which group of fish I mean.

 

The girl ran up to his side and peered into the pool of water. "How beautiful they are!", she yelled in awe.

 

8. the girl: mentioned before

 

9. the pool of water: mentioned before

 

But then a frown appeared on her face. "What's the matter?", the boy asked.

 

10. a frown: I am mentioning the frown for the first time so I have to use "a" here.

 

11. the matter: "What's the matter?" is an invariable expression so "the" always needs to be used here.

 

12. the boy: mentioned before

 

"They are trapped here because a rock on the far end of the pool is blocking their way into the stream that leads out.", she replied.

 

13. a rock: Even though the phrase "on the far end of the pool" is modifying "rock", it does not uniquely identify which one the girl is speaking about since there are several on the far end of the pool. Therefore, I have to use "a". To use "the", I would need to uniquely identify which rock I mean. For instance, I could say "They are trapped here forever because of the rock on the far end of the pool that is blocking their way into the stream."

 

14. the stream: There is only one stream and it being uniquely identified by a relative clause.

 

"Then let's move the rock so they can get out.", said the boy.

 

15. the rock: The boy says "the rock" to refer to the particular rock even though no where in the dialog was it mentioned which one is the exact rock.

 

The girl jumped up and down in joy and then became very serious and said, "Yes, let's do that! But I still have a bone to pick with whomever blocked up this stream! They better hope I don't find out who did this!"

 

16. the girl: mentioned before

 

17. have a bone to pick: "to have a bone to pick with someone" is an invariable expression so "a" must always be used here.

 

The stern look that so suddenly replaced the frown on the girl's face was way too much for the boy to handle; in fact, he couldn't stop laughing for at least five minutes. What a sight to behold! "Never anger a girl who cherishes all of nature!", he thought to himself.

 

18. the stern look: mentioned before

 

19. the frown: mentioned before

 

20. the boy: mentioned before

 

21. the girl's face: mentioned before

 

No sooner had they cleared the stream, the fish darted passed them and down its course where it zigzagged through the woods along the path and then headed north towards Jacob's Meadow.

 

22. the stream: mentioned before

 

23. the fish: mentioned before

 

24. the woods: mentioned before

 

25. the path: mentioned before

 

26. Jacob's Meadow: We typically don't place an article before a place name in American English.

 

Then the boy and the girl returned home but they never did find out who blocked the stream.

 

27. the boy and the girl: mentioned before

 

28. the stream: mentioned before

May 28, 2014 5:36 PM
Comments · 2

Some uses of a/an:

 

1. Introducing something for the first time.

2. When more than one thing exists and you aren't being specific about which one you mean or a relative clause isn't present that uniquely identifies which one you mean.

3. In invariable expressions. For instance, "I have A bone to pick with you."

 

Some uses of the:

 

1. Refering back to something that was already mentioned when doing so would be clear.

2. When a relative clause is being used that uniquely identifies something.

3. In invarible expressions: For instance, "What's THE matter?"

May 28, 2014

A boy and a girl walked up a dirt path that leads through the woods by their home to a waterfall. The boy arrived first and when he reached the waterfall, he shouted, "Hey, look at the fish swimming in the pool this waterfall dumps into."

 

The girl ran up to his side and peered into the pool of water. "How beautiful they are!", she yelled in awe. But then a frown appeared on her face. "What's the matter?", the boy asked.

 

"They are trapped here because a rock on the far end of the pool is blocking their way into the stream that leads out.", she replied.

 

"Then let's move the rock so they can get out.", said the boy.

 

The girl jumped up and down in joy and then became very serious and said, "Yes, let's do that! But I still have a bone to pick with whomever blocked up this stream! They better hope I don't find out who did this!" The stern look that so suddenly replaced the frown on the girl's face was way too much for the boy to handle; in fact, he couldn't stop laughing for at least five minutes. What a sight to behold! "Never anger a girl who cherishes all of nature!", he thought to himself.

 

No sooner had they cleared the stream, the fish darted passed them and down its course where it zigzagged through the woods along the path and then headed north towards Jacob's Meadow. Then the boy and the girl returned home but they never did find out who blocked the stream.

May 28, 2014