1 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 1 of Articles Contents 11.1 The indefinite article (a, an) 11.2 The definite article (the) 11.3 The zero article (-) Articles precede nouns and modify them. There are three types of article: the definite (the), the indefinite (a, an) and the zero (-) article The indefinite article (a, an) The indefinite article is generally used before a singular countable noun when it is mentioned for the first time and represents no particular thing or person. A man and a woman came in. A is used before a word beginning with a consonant, but if the following word starts with a vowel, we use an. Julie was wearing a red skirt and an ugly blouse. Below, you can find some more specific cases for the use of the indefinite article With a noun referring to a member of a class of things or people (cf ) A real friend is always by your side. (= Real friends are always by your side.) This usage refers to any member of a class, or in the sentence above any real friend. Notice that the definite article is not possible in this case To substitute the formal per in measuring He was driving at 80 miles an hour when the car skidded. I go to the sauna twice a month. NOTE In certain abbreviations the letter p stands for per. Speed limit 15 mph. One kilobit per second (Kbps) equals 1000 bits per second (bps).
2 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 2 of 15 Speed limit 15 mph In expressions of quantity (e.g. a lot of, a great many, a great deal of, a couple, a dozen) I m having a lot of problems with Michael. A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices With certain numbers (hundred, thousand, million etc., and fractions) a/one hundred, a/one thousand, a/one million one and a half kilos (or a kilo and a half) a/one third a/one quarter two thirds Also: quarter of an hour half a minute With certain illnesses (e.g. a cold, a fever, a headache) Is it a cold or just an allergy? Geoffrey had a splitting headache. The flu is a virus that can make you sick for a week or longer. (The) measles is best known for its typical skin rash.
3 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 3 of With a proper name without a clear reference (cf and ) A Mr Smith was looking for you this morning. (= Someone called Mr Smith ) With professions Mary is a teacher. I want to be a rock musician when I grow up. I want to be a rock musician when I grow up The definite article (the) The definite article is generally used for items with a clear reference. This means that we know what we are talking about because it is clearly defined. The reference to the man in the following sentences is defined by the underlined phrases. The man on the left is my uncle. The man with the hat in his hand is my uncle. A man and a woman came in. The man was my uncle. That is the man who I told you about the other day. (cf )
4 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 4 of 15 The man with the hat in his hand is my uncle. NOTE Note the pronunciation of the definite article: before a word starting with a consonant before a word starting with a vowel Below, you can find some specific cases for the use of the definite article With a noun representing a whole class (cf ) The computer has made text editing easier. (= Computers have made text editing easier.) The polar bear is threatened with extinction. (= Polar bears are threatened with extinction.) The use of the definite article is more formal than that of the plural. Notice that in this case the indefinite article is not possible as it would refer to one or any member of the class but not the class as a whole: *A polar bear is threatened with extinction. *A computer has made text editing easier. NOTE Man can be used to represent the human race and has no article. Man will eventually destroy his environment. However, today the more gender-neutral term humankind is preferable to man or mankind.
5 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 5 of 15 The computer has made text editing easier With ordinal numbers modifying a noun and with superlative forms of adjectives This is the first time I ve been to China. The 20 th century has seen the bloodiest wars in the history of humankind. Jill is the most intelligent girl in the class. NOTE 1 Most has other meanings as well, which do not take the definite article the: I ve just read a most interesting book. ( = I ve just read a very interesting book.) That was most kind of you. ( = That was very kind of you.) Most people who lose weight regain it in a very short time. ( = The majority of the people who lose weight regain it in a very short time.) 2 If only is used as an adjective, it is preceded by the. The only thing I hate about winter is the cold With unique objects We use the definite article before a noun which refers to an object of which there is only one. The moon rises at 7.30 tomorrow. The earth revolves around the sun. I d love to live by the sea. The captain checked the position of the Northern Star to see where they were. Also: the sky the equator the North Pole the Internet the Matrix the world
6 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 6 of 15 NOTE Bear in mind that there are other suns and moons (or even worlds!) in the universe. The planet Mars has two moons. Every solar system has a sun. The Matrix Historical references The Iraq War has divided the international public. The Renaissance started in Italy and slowly spread throughout Europe. But not always: This course surveys the second wave of English Romanticism.
7 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 7 of 15 The Renaissance started in Italy and slowly spread throughout Europe With adjectives used as plural nouns If we use the definite article before an adjective, the phrase will function as a plural noun referring to all the people described by the adjective. Certainly, in this case, if a verb follows this phrase, it will take the plural form. Only the brave are free. Blessed are the meek. Robin Hood is still believed to have robbed the rich to help the poor. Adjectives describing nationality also work in this way unless they end in an. The English are infamous for their cuisine. The French eat a lot of cheese. *The Hungarian are a hospitable nation With noun phrases referring to groups The definite article is also used with groups if they are clearly plural. The New York Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Iván Fischer in Bartók s The Miraculous Mandarin next weekend. Do you like the Beatles? Do you like Metallica?
8 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 8 of With titles and positions Barthez has never been the goalkeeper of Crystal Palace FC. The head of department allowed me to retake the exam. The Queen will be opening a new music hall next month. The Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church With titles of books, newspapers, magazines, films etc. As a rule, we use the definite article with titles only if it is part of the title itself. Do you ever read The Times? The End of the Road was written by John Barth. I used to be a subscriber to Newsweek With musical instruments and dances Christine Powell plays the piano. Can you do the Fox Trot? In certain geographic names Countries Names of countries which are collective, plural or post-modified (cf ) take the definite article. the United Kingdom the Netherlands the USA the Republic of Ireland the Czech Republic the People s Republic of China Water bodies the (River) Tisza the Mississippi (River) the (English) Channel the Panama Canal the Atlantic (Ocean) the Pacific (Ocean)
9 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 9 of 15 The River Tisza Deserts the Gobi (Desert) the Sahara (Desert) the Mojave Desert Mountain ranges the High Tatras the Alps the Rocky Mountains the Chocolate Mountains Points of the compass the North the South the East the West the South Pole the North Pole She lives in the south of Italy. Geoffrey is going to the Far East next spring. North America Go west, young man!
10 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 10 of Some constellations and other heavenly bodies the Big Dipper the Pleiades the Cigar Galaxy (M82) the Crab Nebula Orion Cassiopeia The Crab Nebula In names of places and institutions Post-modification with of By post-modification in this case we mean the use of the possessive of-structure. This structure takes the definite article. the University of Szeged the Leaning Tower of Pisa the Tower of London the Cape of Good Hope the Island of Lesbos the Isle of Man the Gulf of Maine ADJECTIVE + NOUN constructions If a place name consists of an adjective followed by a noun, we also use the definite article. the National Gallery the British Isles
11 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 11 of 15 the British Council the Royal Court In names of families The Smiths are coming for dinner tonight. (= Mr and Mrs Smith and the children ) They are trying to keep up with the Joneses With certain nouns The morning, the evening, the afternoon, in the night (but: at night, at noon, at midnight) Let s go to the beach, Chris suggested. I am just going to the shop. Do you watch Sex and the City? With proper names (cf and ) The definite article can also be used with proper names if they would not have a clear reference without an additional phrase. The Mr Brown in the blue shirt is my neighbour. The other one I don t know The zero article (-) The zero article is when we do not use a definite or indefinite article With proper names Turner is my favourite painter. But in the following sentence we mean a painting by Turner, hence the article (cf. 11.1): A Turner hangs in his bedroom. Also (cf ): The first name of the Turner I know is Tina, not William. And finally (cf ): A (certain) Turner was looking for you yesterday.
12 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 12 of 15 A Turner hangs in his bedroom With names of places and institutions if they consist of a proper name and another noun Juhász Gyula Teacher Training College Trafalgar Square Victoria Station George Washington Bridge JFK Airport With geographical names Continents Asia America Europe Australia Africa the Arctic the Antarctic the Americas (North and South America) Names of countries Most country names do not take an article (Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Portugal), but: the United States of America (the USA) the United Kingdom (the UK) (cf )
13 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 13 of Lakes Lake Geneva Lake Balaton Lake Michigan Lake Lopnor Loch Ness Lake Balaton Mountain peaks Mount Washington Twin Peaks Denali (Mount) Everest K2 the Chomolungma the Matterhorn
14 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 14 of 15 Mount Everest Most cities Szeged Beijing Bujumbura Budapest New York the Hague the Vatican Most streets Downing Street Michigan Avenue the High Street the Mall the E With places When we talk about places and we do not mean the places themselves but the purpose they are for, we do not use an article. He went to bed. (i.e. to sleep) Kara is in church. (to pray) I went to school in Alabama. (to study) Further examples are college, court, hospital, university, prison. But if we mean the place (usually the building) itself, we use an article:
15 Borbás Tibor Simon Péter: Grammar Cracker Unit 11: Articles Page 15 of 15 He went to the bed to check if the children were sleeping. Peter is in the church renovating the frescoes. I went to the school to fetch the children With set prepositional phrases in charge in tears in danger at war by heart beyond control on time by car But if we mean a specific kind of car, control, war etc. we use an article: We drove in a red car. Hurricanes are beyond the control of governments. He got wounded in the second world war With names of sports, games, activities I love swimming. Rummy is definitely much more difficult than solitaire. She suggested playing Activity With names of days, months, seasons, holidays Monday March summer Halloween Labour Day With names of pubs, restaurants etc. ending in s We went to Maggie s last night. Let s meet at Tom s Diner With certain nouns Go to hell! Have you ever heard Tears in Heaven? Honey, I m home. Travelling abroad can sometimes be dangerous. Note that a discussion of articles cannot provide a complete list of all the occurrences of each type, so it is best to keep your eyes and ears open and pick up as many examples as you can. *
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