ARTICLES Betsey Whitaker Neal Darlan Nunes SilvaAline R. S. Souza de Souza
ARTICLES Most English speakers recognize threearticles: the indefinite articles: a and an andthe definite article: the, but there is another article problem that occurs as well: the use of no articles
For ELLs these little words canwreak havoc with their English
Here are five examples of the most common mistakes. Can you identify and explain these errors?1. I live in the apartment, close to thesupermarket.2. Id like to go to the good restaurant.3. I stayed in the hotel near the park. The hotelwas very nice, and a park had some wonderfulpaths.4. Remember a presentation we went to lastweek?5. The apples are generally very tasty in season.
Key1. I live in an apartment, close to a supermarket. (Note that I know the apartment and supermarket, but you, the listener / reader, do not.) Indefinite articles are used (a, an) the first time something is presented in a sentence.2. Id like to go to a good restaurant. (Use indefinite articles with anything that is not specifically known to BOTH the writer and the reader).3. I stayed in a hotel near a park. The hotel was very nice, and the park had some wonderful paths. (Related to the first two: Use a definite article when referring to something that has already been mentioned).4. Remember the presentation we went to last week? (Conversely, Use a definite article (the) when referring to an object which is known to both the writer and the reader).5. Apples are generally very tasty in season. (Use no definite or indefinite article (nothing, in other words) when speaking in general using a plural with a countable noun, or the singular with a uncountable noun).
Indefinite articles a and an• Use only before singular count nouns• Use with singular count nouns that are not specific and are being mentioned for the 1st time. A penguin is a small black and white bird. An igloo is a dwelling that is made of ice.
Indefinite articles: a, anRule Example1. Use a before a noun or an A feather, a gray featheradjective (+ noun) that begins with aconsonant sound.2. Use an before a noun or anadjective (+ noun) that begins with a an idea, an absurd idea.vowel sound.3. The use of a or an with the lettersh or u depends on the beginning A hat, an hour, an hotelsound of the word. Note: The use ofa or an is determined by the next A university, an umbrellaword’s initial sound, not spelling.
Definite article: theRule Example1. Use the when you are talking general: All of them have a book. about something specific. specific: The book on the table is not mine.2. Use the when the speaker and general: Every house has a door. listener are talking about the specific: Paul, don’t forget to close the door! same specific item. first reference: James and I bought a new3. Use the for the second and all computer last month. other references to the same second reference: The computer lets us access noun. the internet quickly.4. Use the with the superlative form comparative: At the mall, clothes are more of an adjective, which means with expensive than in town. the word most, or with the ending superlative: At the mall, clothes are the most –est. expensive item.
Definite article: theRule Example5. Use the for the names of the Philippines, the Netherlands the United States, the Soviet Unioncountries that look plural, the Dominican Republic, the Republic ofincluding countries that end in Angola, the United Kingdom, the–s, or have the words united, Kingdom of Saudi Arabiaunion, republic or kingdom. In a classroom, there is a desk, a chair, a6. Use the for the parts of clock, a white board, and a teacher.something (Exception: we do In the new classroom, the desk is small,not use the for body parts). the chair is uncomfortable, the clock doesn’t work, but the teacher is great.
Definite article: theRule Example7. Use the with most bodies of the Xingu Riverwater except with individual the Atlantic Oceanlakes. the Black Sea the Great Lakes (but Lake Conceicao)8. Use the with geographic the Greenwich Meridianparts of the globe, and the South Pole and the North Polegeographic areas, deserts, and the Sahara Desertpeninsulas. the Punta del Este Peninsula
A common error for some ELLs is to omit all articles b/c there languages have no articles.• An especially common, but very serious error is the omission of an article of any kind before a singular count noun. I have wife and two daughters. If you get wife you will be very happy.• This type of error is especially common among speakers of Chinese, Japanese, and Russian.
No Article or null article (ø)Rule Example1. When you want to talk General: Cats can be great petsabout a category or group in specific: The cats in the pet store aregeneral, use no article. expensive2. Use no article before Wrong: A person’s future success depends on the educationabstract nouns such as feelingsor ideas. Correct: A person’s future success depends on education Wrong: The patience is a virtue. Correct: Patience is a virtue.
Common mistakes. Watch out!• Do not use a singular count noun without an article or other determinerWrong: job, apple, reason, best choice, delicioussandwichCorrect: a job, an apple, the reason, thebest choice, a delicious sandwich
Common mistakes. Watch out!• Do not use a with a noun that begins with a vowel soundWrong: a hour, a heir, a honorable colleague, a hourly rateCorrect: an hour, an heir, an honorablecolleague, an hourly rate*Sounds of mute H and aspired H.a hat, a hateful place ≠ an heirloom
Common mistakes. Watch out!• Do not use the with a plural count noun that refers to the whole categoryWrong: I don’t trust the politicians. They are an ornerybunch of peopleCorrect: I don’t trust politicians. They arean ornery bunch of people
Common mistakes. Watch out!• Do not use the with abstract nouns or ideasWrong: The education is the most important thing inmy lifeCorrect: Education is the most importantthing in my life
What is your native language? Comparison of English with other languages ARABIC ENGLISH Arabic has a definite article English has the definite article “the” Unlike English, Arabic requires the definite article with abstract nouns. The honesty is important Honesty is importantThe definite article is used for specificthings as in English, but it is also used inArabic when referring to the wholegroup. My favorite sport is tennis My favorite sport is the tennis I am afraid of spiders I am afraid of the spiders Arabic has no indefinite article English has the indefinite articles “a” and “an”
What is your native language? Comparison of English with other languages CHINESE, JAPANESE, KOREAN, RUSSIAN ENGLISHThese languages have no articles. Some English has the definite article “the” andof these languages have a word for this the the indefinite articles “a” and “an” and/or that, so students may overuse these two words in lieu of articles
What is your native language? Comparison of English with other languages FRENCH, SPANISH ENGLISH These languages have indefinite and English has the definite article “the” and definite articles the the indefinite articles “a” and “an” The definite article is used for specific things as in English, but it is also used when referring to the whole group. My favorite sport is the tennis My favorite sport is tennis I am afraid of the spiders I am afraid of spidersIndefinite articles are not used whentalking about professions:My mother is teacher My mother is a teacherUnlike English, both French and Spanish In English articles invariable. have singular and plural forms of their a/an is a phonetic alternance indefinite and definite articles.
Comparison of differences in article usage How would you translate the following sentences into your native language?• I have a brother. He is the best brother in the world.• Politicians are corrupt in many countries.• I lived in Columbia before I moved to the United States.• I don’t like cookies or chocolate. I prefer things that are not sweet.• If you buy a car, you need to take care of it.
Tips for learning faster• Every time you learn a new noun, write it down with a or an in front: a book, a cat, an excuse• Be careful not to overuse the:Correct: I think honesty is the most important human characteristic.Wrong: I think the honesty is the most important human characteristic.• Pay attention to the article usage on individual expressions or idioms:Correct: once upon a timeWrong: once upon the time