Articles - The, A / An, Zero Article

 

1 Introduction

 

1.1 What are Articles?

Articles are words which come before nouns:

the is called the definite article

a / an is called the indefinite article

- means we use no article before a noun;

this is called the zero article

 

1.2 Overview of the Unit

This unit divides into the following sections:

2.1 Basic Rules

2.2 Basic Rules – Exercises

2.3 Advanced Rules / Exceptions

2.4 Advanced Rules – Exercises

2.5 Final Practice Exercise

2 Using Articles

 

2.1 Basic Rules

  Study the following ‘basic' rules for using articles. Mastery of these rules should ensure accuracy in 9 out of 10 cases. A series of exercises follows to practise the basic rules. There is also a separate section to explain more ‘advanced' rules.

 

Rule

Explanation

Type of Noun

Rule 1: The

‘You Know Which One(s)'

The noun is identified because:

- it has been mentioned before, or

- it is identified by a relative clause or a prepositional phrase

- Singular & Plural Common Nouns

- Uncountable Nouns

Rule 2: The

‘There Is Only One'

The noun is identified because there is only one

-Singular & Plural Common Nouns

-Uncountable Nouns

Rule 3: The

‘It Is Clear From the Context Which One(s)'

The noun is identified because:

- there is only one in this context

- it is clear from the context which one / ones I mean

- Singular & Plural Common Nouns

- Uncountable Nouns

Rule 4: A / An

‘You Don't Already Know Which One'

The listener / reader doesn't already know which one because:

- it has not been mentioned before, or

- it is not identified by a relative clause or a prepositional phrase, or

- it is not clear from the context which one

The speaker / reader may want to emphasise that you do not already know which one - i.e. this is new information

- Only with

Singular Countable Nouns


 

Rule

Explanation

Type of Noun

Rule 5: A / An

‘Just One Of A Larger Group'

To show that we refer to one member of a larger group; often used in descriptions

- Only with

Singular Countable Nouns

Rule 6: Zero Article

‘You Don't Already Know Which'

The listener / reader doesn't already know which because:

- it has not been mentioned before, or

- it is not identified by a relative clause or a prepositional phrase

- Plural Countable Nouns

- Uncountable Nouns

Rule 7: Zero Article

‘Generalisations'/ ‘Unspecified amount'/ Any amount

To show that we refer to all members of this group or class, or to an unspecified amount of something

- Plural Countable Nouns

- Uncountable Nouns

Rule 8: Zero Article

‘With Proper Nouns'

No article is used with the names of people, cities, etc

- Proper Nouns

 

 

2.2 Basic Rules - Exercises

The following section contains six practice exercises.

The exercises test your understanding of the following choices :

the or a / an

a / an or zero article

the or zero article

 

2.2.1 the or a / an

 

2.2.1.1

  Fill the spaces with the , a , or an :

•  Where did you buy that shirt? Did you get it in the old shop next to the station?

•  Where is ____ car? I thought I parked it here?

•  He's bought ____ new car.

•  He's ____ teacher and so is his wife.

•  There's ­____ unusual butterfly outside. Look!

•  Change your mind! Don't take ____ job in that factory.

•  ____ children need to go to bed now. They're tired.

•  French is ____ language which is largely derived from Latin (like Spanish and of course Italian).

•  French is ____ language of love. There is no other!

 

2.2.1.2

  Read the following short text. Then match each example (i - x) with the rule or rules for articles which best describe its use (1-5). More than one answer may be possible.

(i) A teenager missing for ten days has been seen by witnesses in (ii) a London park. (iii) The 14-year-old disappeared after taking (iv) a bus from (v) the main bus station in Glasgow. Scottish police have launched (vi) the biggest search for (vii) a minor ever carried out in (viii) the country. (ix) A tall, 30-year-old man with blonde hair was seen with (x) the girl on Sunday afternoon.

 

2.2.2 a / an or zero article

 

2.2.2.1

Fill the spaces with a / an or the zero article (-) :

•  Peter is _____ good man: he's always helping people out.

•  _____ [I]nvestment is required in order to fund the company's expansion.

•  The company is looking for _____ investors in order to fund expansion.

•  He is doing _____ research into the human genetic code.

•  He's a graduate of _____ Cambridge University.

•  They've sent her to _____ school which is excellent, but unfortunately quite far from their house.

•  There are over _____ million people who are unemployed in my country.

•  They're living in _____ old apartment building next to the river.

•  For the indigenous people of the region, _____ fish is part of their staple diet.

•  There's _____ new restaurant in town. Would you like to try it?


2.2.2.2

Read the following short text. Then match each example (i - xi) with the rule or rules for articles which best describe its use (4-8). More than one answer may be possible.

The villages of the area were mentioned in (i) a book written by (ii) a local priest. He gives (iii) a description of (iv) - pre-industrial forms of production, in which (v) - manufacturing took place in the home, but was coordinated by (vi) - middlemen who regularly placed (vii) - orders with (viii) a number of different weavers. The finished cloth would then be taken for sale in (ix) - Bradford - (x) a major centre for (xi) - textile trading in that period.

 

  2.2.3 the or zero article

 

2.2.3.1

Fill the spaces with the or the zero article (-) :

•  Peter is _____ best man for the job.

•  _____ project was funded by the European Community.

•  Those are _____ people who I told you about yesterday.

•  They won't employ _____ people who don‘t have relevant experience.

•  _____ climate scientists all over the world now agree on man's responsibility for global warming.

•  A street in Cambridge is to be named after _____ scientists who discovered the structure of DNA.

•  This recipe requires _____ peanut oil.

•  _____ petrol has risen in price dramatically over the last few weeks.

•  _____ violent crime is always treated seriously by the police.

•  Over $10,000 worth of goods were taken during _____ robbery.

 


2.2.3.2

Read the following short text. Then match each example (i - xiv) with the rule or rules for articles which best describe its use (1-3 & 6-8). More than one answer may be possible.

A key concept in (i) - modern educational theory, provided by (ii) the Russian psychologist Vygotsky, is that of (iii) the ‘zone of proximal development'. According to Vygotsky, only within this zone can (iv) - learning take place. Such a focus invites (v) - educators to take into account what (vi) - students already know before deciding what to teach next. Another aspect of his theory was (vii) the assertion that (viii) - learning takes place through a process of construction , and that learning is therefore fundamentally a social activity. With (ix) - young children learning often takes place through (x) - conversation with someone more knowledgeable (a teacher, a parent, or an older sibling). As we get older such dialogues can become internalised (we ‘think things over'). Thus, in (xi) the ‘construction' of knowledge, the learner brings what she already knows into ‘dialogue' with (xii) - new information or ideas: a process which is usually aided by (xiii) the intervention of a more knowledgeable other (be that a teacher, a slightly older classmate, or perhaps (xiv) the author of the book she has been reading).

 

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