When Judge Grammar next took his seat in court, a number of papers covered with words were handed up to him by Serjeant Parsing.
Little Article

"They are the lists of names, my lord," he said, "which you asked the people of Schoolroom-shire to write for you."

"Very good," said the Judge. "I will read some of the words aloud, and if anyone thinks that they are not nouns, let him come forward and say so. And he began to read: the garden, the house, the sky, a book, a bird, a fly, when suddenly he was interrupted by a sound of bitter sobbing and crying.

"What is the matter?" he asked. "Who dares to interrupt the court?"

"It is this tiresome little Article, your lordship," said Serjeant Parsing, pushing forward a ragged little fellow, who was rubbing both fists into his eyes and crying bitterly. "He says he is being cheated, my lord; that he has only two words of his own in all Grammar-land, and that they are being used on these lists as if they belonged to Mr. Noun."

"Bring him up before me," said the Judge. "What is your name, sir?"

"My name is Article, or Little-joint," replied the little fellow. "I have only two words in all Grammar-land, a and the. I lend them to Mr. Noun whenever he asks for them fairly; but, your lordship, it is very hard," and here he began to cry again, "that they should be read as your lordship was reading them just now, as if they belonged to Mr. Noun, when he is so rich, and I am so very, very poor."

"Is it true, Brother Parsing," asked the Judge, "that little Article is always ready to wait upon Mr. Noun?"

"Quite true, my lord," answered Serjeant Parsing. "Indeed, I have often been able to discover Mr. Noun by catching sight of little Article running before him, for whenever you see an a or a the, you may be sure that Mr. Noun will have a word of his own in somewhere near. The chief use of little Article is to point out that a noun is coming, for you may be sure that if you can put an a or a the before a word, that word is a noun, as a bird, the sky."

"And do you use him as much before your pet proper nouns, sir?" asked Judge Grammar of Mr. Noun.

"No, your lordship," replied Mr. Noun, "that I do not. Indeed, I cannot see that little Article is of much use to me at any time; but he has an old habit of coming with me wherever I go, and when I have no one else I do not mind having him."

"Well," said Judge Grammar, "if you do have him, take care that you use him well; and pray, Brother Parsing, tell, the Schoolroom-shire children to give him a separate mark for himself, and not to put his words with Mr. Noun's."

"Certainly, my lord," said Serjeant Parsing, "but I have one question to ask first. This little Article said that he had only two words in all Grammar-land, a and the. I wish to ask him what he says to an, as you say an egg, an apple? Surely an belongs to him also."

Article was just beginning to answer when he suddenly stopped, turned pale, trembled, and looked as if he would have tumbled to pieces in terror, for he saw Dr. Syntax rise.

Dr. Syntax stood upright, looking very tall and thin and black: he spoke in very stern voice, but all he said was, "An is only used before a vowel or an h mute." Then he sat down again.

"Ah!" said Serjeant Parsing, drawing a long breath, "thank you. Now, little Article, say what you have to say."'

"I have only to say," remarked Article, recovering his courage, "that a and an are really one and the same word; a is only an with his coat off. I like to use it best as a without its coat, but before a vowel or an h mute I am obliged," and here Article gave a frightened look at Dr. Syntax, "I am obliged to keep its coat on and call it an."

"And do you know what you mean by a vowel or an h mute?" asked Judge Grammar.

"O yes, my lord: there are five vowels, a, e, i, o, u," answered Article.

"And what is an h mute?" asked the Judge.

"An h that is not sounded, as in an hour, an honor," answered Article, rather impatiently, for he was getting very tired of being questioned.

"And you are to use an before any word that begins with a vowel, a, e, i, o, or u, or an h mute, are you?" asked the Judge.

"Yes, my lord," said Article, "I told you so before."

"Give us some examples of words beginning with each of these," said the Judge, "and show us how you use an before them."

Article held up one hand, with the thumb and four fingers stretched out, and pointing to each one in turn, beginning with the thumb, he answered: "An apple, an eagle, an idol, an ox, and an ugly, uncomfortable, unkind old Judge, to keep me here so long answering questions." Saying which, little ragged Article turned and scampered off as fast as his legs could carry him.

Serjeant Parsing then said that as Article had behaved so badly, he hoped the Judge would give him a severe punishment, by allowing the children of Schoolroom-shire to use his words as often as they liked in their new lists.

"Certainly," said Judge Grammar. "I request that each of you will write six new nouns, and will use an article before every one of them."

The court then rose, after Serjeant Parsing had handed the Schoolroom-shire children a verse, begging them to find out all the nouns and articles in it.

You may find Serjeant Parsing's verse for examination in the Lesson Guide.


Over the two weeks:

  • Read or review the lesson each week.
  • Complete the assigned enrichment activities for each week.


Meet poor and ragged Little Article, who feels he is being cheated by the powerful and wealthy Mr. Noun. An article is a Part-of-Speech that indicates, specifies, and limits a noun (a, an, or the in English). Note how the articles are small words, containing at most 3 letters. The article 'an' is used before words starting with vowel sounds (e.g. a, e, i, o, u). The article 'a' is used before words starting with non-vowel sounds (e.g. s, t, n).


Activity - Week 1: A or An?

Tell which article you use before each of the following words - A or An.

  • aster
  • Australian
  • afternoon
  • evergreen
  • hat
  • evening
  • ivy
  • ruler
  • inch
  • onion
  • walnut
  • opal
  • fig
  • uncle
  • Canadian
  • umbrella

Activity - Week 2 Part 1: Identify and/or Correct the Articles

Identify the article(s) as well as any errors in each sentence.

  • An boy carried an purple umbrella.
  • The desk supported the computer.
  • An dog scratched a ear.
  • The lamp illuminated, shining an bright beam of light.
  • The alligator chewed on a fish.
  • A eagle soared over the mountain.
  • The raccoon stole a egg.
  • The President addressed the crowd.

Activity - Week 2 Part 2: Find the Nouns and Articles

Find out all the nouns and articles in Serjeant Parsing's verse.

  • Once there was a little boy,
  • With curly hair and pleasant eye;
  • A boy who always spoke the truth,
  • And never, never told a lie.