Definition of a in English:

a

(also an)

determiner

  • 1Used when referring to someone or something for the first time in a text or conversation.

    ‘a man came out of the room’
    Compare with the
    ‘it has been an honor to have you’
    ‘we need people with a knowledge of languages’
    • ‘My wife got me an unexpected Christmas gift this year.’
    • ‘Children need a place for their computer equipment, and parents need closet space for their clothing.’
    • ‘We had to write a story about a natural disaster for creative writing.’
    • ‘Jack crouched down and hid behind a tree trunk.’
    • ‘Bob's conducting a three-year internet romance with a girl he's never met.’
    • ‘An internal report written by a manager at the nuclear waste reprocessing plant was leaked this week.’
    • ‘"That campaign definitely had an effect," she says.’
    • ‘I received an email from Jo today.’
    • ‘Before making a decision, do an assessment of how you want to use your phone.’
    • ‘He has also written an opera and translated Dante's Inferno in order to produce an illustrated book of it.’
    1. 1.1 Used with units of measurement to mean one such unit.
      ‘a hundred’
      ‘a quarter of an hour’
      • ‘I stopped to pick up a gallon of milk on my way home from work.’
      • ‘The attack came amid a major upsurge in violence across the country that has left a thousand dead.’
      • ‘About a mile further down the road, another dog ran out in front of the taxi.’
      • ‘I look at these miserable people, and wouldn't trade my life with theirs for a million dollars.’
      • ‘I sent off an e-mail, just an hour ago, and he's already got me back online.’
      • ‘There is barely an ounce of fat on his body, and he continues to make his team-mates look chubby.’
    2. 1.2with negative One single; any.
      ‘I simply haven't a thing to wear’
      • ‘I think there's not a person born that doesn't have a gift to offer in some way.’
      • ‘The film looks fantastic: there is not a spot, or a scratch, or a visual defect to be seen.’
      • ‘Most refugees say they never saw a drop of food aid - despite almost one million tonnes flooding into the country every year.’
      • ‘I had to own up to the fact that I'd never read a word by Crofts.’
      • ‘Incensed at the fiasco, I went back to the website to try and find a telephone number to call - not a thing!’
    3. 1.3 Used when mentioning the name of someone not known to the speaker.
      ‘a Mr. Smith telephoned’
      • ‘The latest letter was from a Mrs Singh, who complained about two radio stations.’
      • ‘Does anyone know a Mr Daeller?’
      • ‘She was born in about 1670, the daughter of a Mr Freeman of Holbeach in Lincolnshire.’
      • ‘On September 29 a letter arrived at our address for a Ms L Doherty.’
      • ‘He was sent two poems from a Miss Ethel Malley, who wrote saying they were found among her brother's possessions after his death.’
    4. 1.4 Someone like (the name specified)
      ‘you're no better than a Hitler’
      • ‘You need the methods of a Roosevelt.’
      • ‘Regarding academic medicine, it has become increasingly difficult for a Freud or a Mendel to gain recognition without university affiliation or corporate sponsorship.’
      • ‘Called a Judas by his countrymen, he received an elbow from another player, and left the pitch injured.’
      • ‘Moore says that the organization has passed its Chamberlain period, and is now in need of a Churchill.’
      • ‘What he lacks is the charisma of an Olivier, whose epochal Coriolanus is dazzlingly evoked in two pages of Kenneth Tynan's Curtains.’
  • 2Used to indicate membership of a class of people or things.

    ‘he is a lawyer’
    ‘this car is a BMW’
    • ‘Lilly is a Siamese cat who survived a two-week cross-country move while stuck in a drawer.’
    • ‘In 1984 he was granted his fervent wish to acquire a Picasso.’
    • ‘My mom's a pharmacist and my dad's a realtor.’
    • ‘Notice that every car seen in the show is a Chevrolet, out of consideration for their sponsor.’
    • ‘She's a banker, married to a stockbroker, and they have a daughter about the same age as Amy.’
  • 3Used when expressing rates or ratios; in, to, or for each; per.

    ‘typing 60 words a minute’
    ‘cost as much as eight dollars a dozen’
    • ‘I type 15 words a minute with a lot of mistakes.’
    • ‘The truckers are angry at the rise in diesel prices, which currently average 81.3p a litre.’
    • ‘You can't drive over five miles an hour down any street in New York.’
    • ‘The price of gold rose last week to $309 an ounce - and at one point was $312, its highest for two years.’
    • ‘The site takes in 2,000 tons of trash on a typical day, charging an average $30 a ton.’

Usage

On the question of using a or an before words beginning with h, see an

Origin

Middle English: weak form of Old English ān ‘one’.

Pronunciation