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مُساهمةموضوع: articles a/an   السبت سبتمبر 12, 2009 8:37 pm

Using Articles


What is an article? Basically, an article is an adjective. Like
adjectives, articles modify nouns.

English has two articles: the and a/an. The is used to refer
to specific or particular nouns; a/an is used to
modify non-specific or non-particular nouns. We call the the definite article and a/an the indefinite article.

the = definite article

a/an = indefinite article

For example, if I say, "Let's read the book,"
I mean a specific book. If I say, "Let's read a book," I mean any book rather than a
specific book.

Here's another way to explain it: The is used
to refer to a specific or particular member of a group.
For example, "I just saw the most popular movie
of the year." There are many movies, but only one particular movie is the
most popular. Therefore, we use the.

"A/an" is used to refer to a non-specific or
non-particular member of the group. For example, "I would like
to go see a movie." Here, we're not talking
about a specific movie. We're talking about any movie.
There are many movies, and I want to see any movie. I don't have
a specific one in mind.

Let's look at each kind of article a little more closely.

Indefinite Articles: a and an



"A" and "an" signal that the noun modified is indefinite, referring to
any member of a group. For example:



  • "My daughter really wants a dog for
    Christmas." This refers to any dog. We don't know which dog
    because we haven't found the dog yet.
  • "Somebody call a policeman!" This refers to
    any policeman. We don't need a specific policeman; we need any
    policeman who is available.
  • "When I was at the zoo, I saw an elephant!"
    Here, we're talking about a single, non-specific thing, in this case an
    elephant. There are probably several elephants at the zoo, but there's
    only one we're talking about here.


Remember, using a or an depends on the sound that begins the next word.
So...




  • a + singular noun beginning with a
    consonant: a boy; a car; a bike; a zoo; a dog
  • an + singular noun beginning with a vowel:
    an elephant; an
    egg; an apple; an
    idiot; an orphan

  • a + singular noun beginning with a consonant
    sound: a user (sounds like 'yoo-zer,' i.e. begins
    with a consonant 'y' sound, so 'a' is used); a
    university; a unicycle
  • In some cases where "h" is pronounced, such as "historical," us an:

An historical event is worth recording.


In writing, "a historical event" is more commonly
used.

Remember that this rule also applies when you use acronyms:
Introductory Composition at Purdue (ICaP) handles
first-year writing at the University. Therefore, an ICaP memo generally
discusses issues concerning English 106 instructors.


Another case where this rule applies is when acronyms start with
consonant letters but have vowel sounds:
An MSDS (material safety data sheet) was used to record the data. An SPCC
plan (Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures plan) will help us
prepare for the worst.


If the noun is modified by an adjective, the choice between a and an depends on the
initial sound of the adjective that immediately follows the article:


  • a broken egg
  • an unusual problem
  • a European country (sounds like
    'yer-o-pi-an,' i.e. begins with consonant 'y' sound)


Remember, too, that in English, the indefinite articles are used to
indicate membership in a group:


  • I am a teacher. (I am a member of a
    large group known as teachers.)
  • Brian is an Irishman. (Brian is a member of
    the people known as Irish.)
  • Seiko is a practicing Buddhist. (Seiko is a
    member of the group of people known as Buddhists.)


Definite Article: the


The definite article is used before singular and plural nouns when the
noun is specific or particular. The signals that
the noun is definite, that it refers to a particular member of a group.
For example:

"The dog that bit me ran away." Here, we're
talking about a specific dog, the dog that bit me.

"I was happy to see the policeman who saved my
cat!" Here, we're talking about a particular policeman. Even if
we don't know the policeman's name, it's still a particular policeman
because it is the one who saved the cat.

"I saw the elephant at the zoo." Here, we're
talking about a specific noun. Probably there is only one
elephant at the zoo.

Count and Noncount Nouns



The can be used with noncount nouns, or the
article can be omitted entirely.


  • "I love to sail over the water" (some
    specific body of water) or "I love to sail over water" (any water).
  • "He spilled the milk all over the floor"
    (some specific milk, perhaps the milk you bought earlier that day) or "He
    spilled milk all over the floor" (any milk).



"A/an" can be used only with count nouns.


  • "I need a bottle of water."
  • "I need a new glass of milk."


Most of the time, you can't say, "She wants a water," unless you're
implying, say, a bottle of water.

Geographical use of the



There are some specific rules for using the
with geographical nouns.

Do not use the before:


  • names of most countries/territories: Italy, Mexico,
    Bolivia
    ; however, the Netherlands, the Dominican
    Republic, the Philippines, the United States
  • names of cities, towns, or states: Seoul, Manitoba,
    Miami

  • names of streets: Washington Blvd., Main St.
  • names of lakes and bays: Lake Titicaca, Lake Erie except
    with a group of lakes like the Great Lakes
  • names of mountains: Mount Everest, Mount Fuji except with
    ranges of mountains like the Andes or
    the Rockies or unusual names like
    the Matterhorn
  • names of continents (Asia, Europe)
  • names of islands (Easter Island, Maui, Key West) except with island
    chains like the Aleutians, the Hebrides, or the Canary
    Islands


Do use the before:


  • names of rivers, oceans and seas: the
    Nile, the Pacific

  • points on the globe: the Equator, the North Pole
  • geographical areas: the Middle East,
    the West

  • deserts, forests, gulfs, and peninsulas: the Sahara, the Persian Gulf,
    the Black Forest, the
    Iberian Peninsula



Omission of Articles



Some common types of nouns that don't take an article are:


  • Names of languages and nationalities: Chinese, English,
    Spanish, Russian

  • Names of sports: volleyball, hockey, baseball
  • Names of academic subjects: mathematics, biology, history,
    computer science

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