Grammar Toolbox: a/an and nouns

The indefinite article: a or an

We use a before a consonant and an before a vowel (vokal). But it depends on the pronunciation (uttalen) of the following word, not the spelling. Use a dictionary if you are not sure how a word is pronounced.

Sometimes we use the article a or an in front of a noun in English when we don’t use an article in Norwegian. We use a or an when the noun is countable.
Example: Jeg er bilmekaniker. / Eg er bilmekanikar. I am a car mechanic.

Some nouns are uncountable, and then we don’t use a or an, even if we use an article in Norwegian.
Example: For et fælt vær! / For eit fælt vêr! What terrible weather!


Nouns (substantiver)
A noun is a word that denotes (betegner) a thing, a person, an animal or a concept (begrep). Rule of thumb: if you can put the definite article “the” in front of a word, it’s a noun.

Most nouns have plural forms (flertallsformer). Usually, it is enough to add -s to the noun to make a plural form: ball – balls, thing – things etc.

With some nouns, you have to add -es to make a plural form: box – boxes, university – universities etc.
Some nouns do not follow the -s/-es pattern. We call them irregular nouns (uregelmessige substantiv). Example: child – children.

So far, we have looked at nouns that have plurals and can be used with a/an – for example a chair – chairs, a man – men. We call them countable nouns (tellelige substantiv).

However, Some nouns cannot be counted: they have no plurals and cannot normally be used with a/an. For example, air, water, weather, luggage and furniture. Here is a piece of advice: There are many such uncountable nouns, so use a dictionary if you are in doubt!