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Головна » Статті » English Grammar

Articles: Indefinite and Zero


The articles are important for the English language. Not only are they among the most common words in English, they are often vital for successful communication. Changing one article for another, or leaving one out, can often cause misunderstanding, for example, if you say "I like English" (the language), when you mean "I like the English" (the people). Articles can help you make the meaning clearer or choose between meanings. Mistakes with articles do not always cause misunderstanding, but they can let the rest of your English down.


There are two articles in English: the Indefinite Article a/an and the Definite Article the.

The Indefinite Article is derived from the Numeral "one". It is never used with a noun in the plural.

The Indefinite Article has two forms both in speech and writing: a [   ] book; a  [  ] student; an [  n] apple; an [  n] hour.

A is used before consonants and an is used before vowels.


The Definite Article is derived from the Pronoun that. It is used with a noun in the singular and in the plural. It has only one form in writing theThe rug was stained. But there are two pronunciations: [ð  ] is used before consonant sounds;  [ði:] is used before vowel sounds: The same name was given to this island [ð  ]. The emphasis is on discipline [ði:].

You cannot use an article on its own: I like the idea.  But not "I like the"


The articles go only with nouns, or words that behave like nouns. They are therefore a kind of determiner: The town is small and undistinguished. It is only a gesture.

There may be several words between the article and its noun: for a fairly long period.


Not every noun has to have an article. There may be another determiner, like this or thathis or my, or some, or no, or there may be no article at all (sometimes called the zero article). He stuck to this story. She ate some soup and that was all. They have no money to buy a house. The flower needs water.


The articles occur as part of noun groups. A noun group is a group of words based around a head, which is usually a noun:

      Determiner              modifier head                      qualifier

               The                        tall                         girl                 with black hair.

Normally in speech the articles are not stressed.



2.1. The use of the indefinite articles A/AN

The indefinite article a/an is the normal, neutral and most typical way of referring to a single example of something, to one member of a class of things. It is also used to refer to a thing for the first time.


A/An is used:

1.  To refer to a group of people, animals or things: We could call it a sort of romance between just man and woman.  dolphin lives in the sea.

NOTE: In this case the article has the meaning any or every.

1) in classification by means of descriptive labels:

       a) origins: He is a Frenchman.

       b) occupation:  I'm an architect.

       c) religion: She's Catholic.

       d) politics: He is a Socialist.

NOTE: Adjectival equivalents (where they exist) can be used in place of nouns for all the above examples except occupation: He's American / Catholic /Socialist.  

2) with any kind of typical characterization: You are an angel/ a saint / a beauty/ a chatter-box/ a lunatic.

3) with nouns in apposition to state that the object expressed by the noun in apposition belongs to a certain class: I'd like to introduce you to Mr Smith, a great friend of mine.

4) with pairs of nouns which are considered to accompany each other naturally: a cup and saucer; a hat and coat. It's cold outside, take a hat and coat with you.

NOTE: Take a hat and a camera when you go on holiday (here a hat and a camera do not form a pair.)

2. With nouns in certain syntactical positions:

1) with nouns modified by:

a) a descriptive attribute: I spent sleepless night.  It was a cold spring. We left the place after hearty breakfast.

b) a descriptive infinitive: I made an attempt to smile.

2) with a noun followed by a qualifier, such as a prepositional phrase or a relative clause: The information was contained in an article on biology. I chose picture that reminded me of my own country.


3. 1) To preserve its old original meaning of one:  stitch in time saves nine. In some languages, one and a/an are the same. In English a/an is more common. One is only used:

a)  when we want to be particularly emphatic or dramatic, meaning "no more than one":. He's got one son. (not two or three); 

b)  when we are explicitly contrasting numbers, e.g. two kilos of  flour and one litre of water; She's got one Rolls-Royce and two Cadillacs or in technical mathematical contexts;

c)  when we want to highlight something or someone in a report or story, and make them an important topic we are going to talk about. The expressions like One day ... and One morning... are familiar openings to important events in stories.

2) with uncountable nouns to mean one: There is hair in my soup.


4.  With abstract nouns:

1) with abstract nouns used in a particular sense: a love of music, love of nature.

2) with some abstract nouns like regret, comfort, pity, horror, shame, relief, wonder, etc.: It's a pity/relief/ shame/ wonder/ horror, etc

3) with abstract nouns to denote a certain kind of a quality, feeling, state, etc., which are modified by a descriptive  attribute or an attributive clause: We saw an eagerness in her eyes, which could hardly be forgotten.


5.  With numerals:

1) with  numerals  hundred,  thousand,  million to mean one and the nouns that refer to whole  numbers, fractions, money, weights or measures, timeA week has passed. The case weighs hundred pounds. We go there twice fortnight.

NOTE: In measuring per can replace a/an: He was paid $30 a/per day.

2) with ordinal numerals meaning one more or another: He must have third attempt.

3) with the nouns period, population, distance, height, salary, etc followed by of + numeral + noun: She was working for period of ten days. So far we have covered a distance of thirty miles.

4) with some expressions of quantity: a pair of, a little, a couple of, a few; three times a day; forty miles an hour; He bought pair of shoes.


6. In exclamations with What + a countable noun: What an idea! What lovely day! What a beautiful sight!

7.  After half, many, quite, such, rather: There was half cup of coffee left. He spent many lonely day there. She is quite a child.

NOTE: A or an either precedes or follows rather: Seaford is rather a pleasant town.  He told me rather long story.


8. To follow the attribute expressed by an adjective after as, how, so, too: It was as black a house inside as outside. She is too good woman for him.

9. With uncountable nouns to express the meaning 'a type of' or 'a portion of'a gin, an ice-cream, soup.

10. With some illnesses: cold, headache, sore throat, weak heart, broken leg.

NOTE: is optional in the expressions like catch (a) cold, have (a) backache/ stomach-ache/ toothache/ earache, e.g.: I'm afraid the baby's got (a) cold. I've had (a) toothache all night.


2.2. The use of the ZERO ARTICLE (no article)

No article is used for general, open-ended reference to any or all members of a class.

Articles are not used with:

1)          plural countable nouns: They packed goods in bags. These can be modified by adjectives or other phrases: people throughout the country, local museums, world nations.

2)          uncountable nouns (always singular):

a)            abstract: Knowledge is power.

b)            colours: Yellow seems to be very warm.

c)            food and drink: I like cheeseLemonade has too much sugar in it.

d)            substances / materials: The house is made of stoneWater boils at 100°C.

e)            activities: Reading is a  real pleasure.

f)             sports/ games: Millions of fans all over the world enjoy watching hockey.

g)            politics/philosophy: Feudalism is a political and economic system of Medieval Europe. Positivism claims that sciences are the only source of true knowledge.

h)            languages: English, German, Chinese; but: the English language.

i)              academic subjects and related topics: He is good at literature.  But: We study the literature of the 20th century; with adjectival combinations: Renaissance Art, Medieval Theatre, Ancient philosophy.

3)        names of days, months, seasons and holidays: She'll come on Wednesday. I'm going on business in springJune is the loveliest summer month. Easter is my favourite holiday. But in the expressions in (the) summer/ autumn/ winter/ spring  the can be used.

4)          names of meals: breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner, supper. They sat down to tea. Breakfast begins at 8 o'clock. ButThe lunch we ate in that bar was modest (the meal is specified). She gave us a very nice dinner. (the meal is classified)

5)          names of places at home, in bed, at work, in hospital, at college, in prison, in church when we refer to their "primary purpose", that is the activity associated with them: She is taken to hospital. (to be treated) He was sent to prison ( to serve the term of punishment).


NOTE: to be in the bed = an article of furniture is meant;

to go to the prison = the building is meant;

to leave the college = to leave the building;

The workmen went to the church to repair the roof (They didn't go to a religious service.)


6)          transport: by air, by car, by plane, by train, by tube, on foot, etc.: Travelling by air is very convenient.

7)          names of illnesses: bronchitis, pneumonia, quinsy, malaria, etc. But: the can be used with some common infectious diseases: (the) flu, (the) measles, (the) mumps.

8)          "pairs" joined by and: day and night, father and son, husband and wife, light and dark, young and old, son and moon:  She couldn't stop thinking about it day and night.  

9)          an uncountable noun or a plural countable after what and such: What lovely weather! What chatter-boxes you are! They were such idlers! Such love can only be seen in films.

10)        the words television or TV when we refer to the medium itself or programmes: Sally played small parts on television.  But: Will you turn down the TV? (the TV set is referred to).

11)       the words radio, cinema, movies, opera, ballet, theatre when we refer to them in very general terms as art forms or as professions: Television is one of the greatest inventions of the post-Second World War time. Amateur theatre was actually the first step in his artistic career


NOTE When we are going to enjoy a form of entertainment we use the definite article: Why not go to the movies for a change? Last Sunday I went to the opera with my son and we had an enjoyable night.

There are many instances in everyday life when both articles are deliberately omitted to save space, time and money. This is usually done in newspaper headlines, small advertisements, instructions, shopping lists, labels, some dictionary definitions and notices: Bomb Explosion Accident (newspaper headline); "Compact residence in select suburb; 3 bed.(bedrooms), 2 recept. (reception rooms), kitchen and bathroom, garage space, nice garden" (advertisement); Cut along dotted line (instruction).


E x e r c i s e s

2.1. Rewrite the sentences using singular nouns with a or an if necessary instead of plural nouns in italics.

1)       Dogs make good pets. – A dog makes a good pet.

2)       Lawyers usually earn more than policemen.

3)       You don't often see good programmes on TV nowadays.

4)       Sons are always a lot more trouble than daughters.

5)       Nowadays you can buy computer-controlled washing machines.

6)       I hate to hear children crying or dogs barking.

7)       Has anyone seen newspapers in the sitting room?

8)       It's not easy to learn foreign languages which are very different from your own language.

9)       Last night I saw interesting TV programmes about Eastern Europe.

10)    Sheep are grass-eating animals kept for their flesh and wool.

11)    Modern physical science is unable to explain phenomena of this sort.

12)     Mice are small and shy animals but they can do a lot of harm.

13)    The old gentleman gave Phillip six pennies. (шесть монет достоинством  в один пенс каждая. Употребите слово, обозначающее одну монету достоинством в шесть пенсов).


2.2. Correct any errors. Put in a/an or nothing.

1)       I'll try to give you a decent lunch.

2)       They must have the third game to decide who is the real winner.

3)       Have you got shampoo for a dry hair?

4)       He made the effort to collect himself.

5)       It was real pleasure to him to give a pleasure to others.

6)       She was curious sort of girl.

7)       The plane was flying at the height of 3.000 feet above sea level.

8)       On the table the bottle of port was ready for him.

9)       The third man entered the room.

10)    I have wonderful clock, which is one hundred years old.


2.3. Insert a/an, one if necessary.

1)       One of my friends advised me to take ..... taxi; another said that there was quite ….. good  service.

2)       ….. friend of mine lent me ….. book by Meredith. I've only ….. more chapter to read. Would you like ….. loan of it afterwards? – No, thanks. I read ….. of his books ….. few years ago and didn't like it. Besides I have ….. library book to finish. If I don't take it back tomorrow I'll have to pay ….. fine.

3)       ….. man I met on the train told me ….. rather unusual story.

4)       Most people like ….. rest after hard day's work, but Tom seemed to have ….. inexhaustible supply of energy.

5)       I've told you ….. hundred times not to come into ….. room with ….. hat on.

6)       It's unlucky to light three cigarettes with ….. match. – That's only ….. superstition. Only ….. idiot believes in superstitions.

7)       He says ….. caravan is no good, he needs ….. cottage.

8)       ….. plate is no good, we need ….. dozen.


2.4. What are these things? 

An ant?  – It is an insect.

1)       A cauliflower?                – It' s …..

2)       A pigeon? – It's …..

3)       A dandelion? – It's …..

4)       A snake? – It's .....

5)       A rat? – It's .....

6)  A skyscraper? – It's …..

7) A pike? – It's .....

8) A Rolls-Royce? – It's .....

9) A fly? – It's .....

10) A tower? – It's .....


Who are/were these people? 

Beethoven? – He was a composer.

11)  Pele? –  He was …..

12)  Shakespeare? – He was …..

13) Paul McCartney? – He is ......

14) Titian? – He was .....

15)  Einstein? – He was …..

16)  Marilyn Monroe? – She was…..

17) Stephen Spielberg? – He is .....

18) Elizabeth II? – She is .....


2.5. Write what his or her job is.

Ron flies an aeroplane. – He's a pilot.

1)       Vera types letters in an office.

2)       Tim arranges people's holidays for them.

3)       Stella looks after patients in hospital.

4)       Mary teaches mathematics.

5)       Martha directs films.

6)       John translates what people are saying from one language into another so that they can understand each other.


2.6. Where you find a noun phrase with a singular noun but no article, put in a/an or one if necessary.

1)       A/ (One) Chop won't be enough for Tom; he'll want two; he's small man but he's got big appetite.

2)       "I want volunteers for dangerous job," said the captain. There was long silence. "Isn't there even man who will take  risk?" he asked. Voice called out from the back, "Will there be reward?"

3)       I have flat on the top floor. You get lovely view from there.

4)       Day new director arrived. He was ambitious, bad-tempered man, and the staff took instant  dislike to him.

5)       Suddenly bullet struck street lamp little to Bill's left. He looked up and saw man with gun standing at open window.

6)       Bill fired twice. Bullet hit the wall, the other broke pane of glass. He heard angry shout.

7)       Day – it was dry day with good visibility – Tom was driving along country road in borrowed car.

8)       You're making mistake after another. Have you hangover or something? – No, but I had very bad night last night. The people next door were having party. – Bad night shouldn't have such effect on your work. I often have three bad nights in succession. I live in very noisy street.


2.7. What is the difference between (a) and (b) in each pair?

1)            a) Have some sauce with your hot dog.

               b) Shall I make a sauce with the fish?

2)            a) Plant and heavy machinery crossing only! (a road sign)

               b) I've bought you a house plant.

3)            a) Can I have some light?

               b) Can you give me a light?

4)            a) This is a work by a Flemish master of the 16th century.

               b) Over there you can see the premises of the local glass works.

5)            a) Spring seems to be coming.

               b) There is no spring in his muscles.

6)            a) Raspberry jam is really good when you catch colds.

               b) Living in a big city you can hardly avoid the pest called a traffic jam.


2.8. Fill each gap with one suitable collective noun from the table. Mind the articles.

a group, a gang, a crowd, a shoal, a swarm, a set, a pack, a flock, a bunch

1)       There are swarms of mosquitoes in the forests of Scandinavia in the summer.

2)       As we looked over the side of the boat, we saw ….. of brightly coloured fish swimming just below the surface.

3)       There was ….. of youths standing on the corner; they didn't look at all friendly.

4)       You'll see ….. of cards on the bookshelf . Will you fetch them for me, please?

5)       The government has appointed ….. of biologists to look into the problem.

6)       There is ….. of people waiting outside.

7)       ….. of sheep had escaped from a field.

8)       She gave me ….. of six sherry glasses.

9)       She gave me ….. of beautiful roses.


2.9. Correct any errors. Put in a/an or nothing.

1)       Last time there was fog here a plane crash-landed on the field near the airport. The crew had lucky escape. A man broke his leg. The rest were unhurt.

2)       You've been great help to me; a day I will repay you.

3)       My car broke down near bus stop. There was one man waiting for a bus so I asked him for an advice.

4)       He took one quick look at my car and said, "Buy new one".

5)       – There was one woman here. The rest were men. – There shouldn't have been even a woman. It was meant to be stag party.

6)       Don't tell one soul! Not even your wife! – Of course not! I'd never tell a secret to one woman.

7)       Most of the staff had been there for only very short time, but a man had been there an year and one half, so he knew little more than the rest.

8)       Could you lend me one dictionary, please? I'm trying to do crossword puzzle. – I'm afraid I've only got a dictionary, and Tom's borrowed it.


2.10. Rewrite these sentences with rather a/an or quite a/an.

1)      The book was rather interesting  – It was rather an interesting book.

2)      The house we lived in was quite big.

3)      The film was quite exciting.

4)      My childhood was rather sad.

5)      The car was rather expensive.

6)      The school is quite good.

7)      I met a man who was quite interesting.

8)      When she was a child she was rather naughty.

9)       The problem was rather difficult.

10)    The letter she wrote him was quite rude.

Now rewrite sentences 1), 4), 5), 9) with a rather:

1)       It was a rather interesting book.

2)        etc.


2.11. Put in a/an or some or nothing.

1)      I've seen some good films recently.

2)      Have you got ….. headache?

3)      Are most of your friends  ….. students?

4)      Have you got  ….. camera?

5)      Would you like to be  ….. actor?

6)      Bill's got  ….. big feet.

7)      Do you collect  ….. stamps?

8)      Tom always gives Ann  ….. flowers on her birthday.

9)      Those are ..... really nice trousers. Where did you get them?

10)    What  ….. beautiful garden!

11)    My  neighbour is  ….. photographer; let's ask him for  ….. advice about colour films.

12)    We had ….. fish and chips for  ….. lunch. That doesn't sound  ….. very interesting lunch.

13)    I had  ….. very bad night; I didn't sleep  ….. wink.

14)    He is  ….. vegetarian, you won't get  ….. meat at his house. He'll give you  ….. nut cutlet. – Last time I had  ….. nut cutlet I had   ….. indigestion.

15)    …..  travel agent would give you  …..  information about hotels.


2.12. Answer these remarks using the words in brackets, as in the example. Mind the articles.

1)       Oh dear! I've split water on the floor! (to mind, cloth; to wipe up) – Never mind! Here is a cloth; just wipe it up.

2)      How did you get that puncture in your tire?  (to be; glass; road)

3)      I was surprised to hear that old Mrs Jones doesn't live with her family any more. (to live; home- дом престарелых)

4)      What do you think my son should do? He's just left school and he's not really academic. He needs a job. (to get; trade)

5)      Why did you choose this house in the end? (to have; land)

6)      Mum, what's the Mona Lisa? (work; art; painting)

7)      Now can I find out what the restrictions are on this car insurance? (to look at; policy)


2.13. Fill the gaps with a/an, or some where necessary.

1)       We had some delicious food last night.

2)       We had ….. delicious meal last night.

3)       There is  ….. beautiful furniture in that shop.

4)       There is  ….. beautiful table in that shop.

5)       I'm thirsty. I need  ….. drink.

6)       I'm thirsty. I need  ….. water.

7)       She's just bought  ….. expensive clothes.

8)       She's just bought  ….. expensive dress.

9)       They booked  ….. room in advance.

10)    They booked  …..accommodation in advance.


2.14. You are talking about the holiday you had with a friend. Use these words:

accommodation, awful journey, beautiful scenery, chair, fun, good weather, meal

Mind the article!

1)       (It was quite easy to book a place to stay.) – Booking accommodation was quite easy. But my room wasn't very nice. It didn't even have a chair in it.

2)       (You were in a beautiful part of the country.) – It was a lovely  place. There was  ….. all around us.

3)       (The weather was good.) – And we had  ….. while we were there.

4)       (One evening you went to a restaurant with some other people.) – One evening we had  ….. with some people we met.

5)       (You enjoyed yourselves at the disco.) – We went to a disco. We had  ….. there.

6)       (Travelling home was awful.) – We had  ….. home last Saturday.


2.15. Complete each sentence with one suitable word from the list. Use each word once only.

accommodation, bread, cookery, lightning, spelling, advice, cash, information, luggage, parking

1)       I can't cut this loaf. Do you have a proper bread knife?

2)       I'm afraid that "neice" is  ….. mistake.

3)       There's usually  ….. space opposite the church.

4)       We need ..... box to keep the money in.

5)       The tourist board have built …..  centre near the castle.

6)       We decided to put  ….. conductor on the roof.

7)       Marjorie used to write ….. column in a magazine.

8)       These suitcases are heavy. We must find ….. trolley.

9)       I must rush. I'm going to  ….. lesson.

10)    Julie found her flat through  ….. agency.


2.16. Complete these sentences using the noun in brackets in the singular or plural form. Mind the article!

1)       He gave me a box of my favourite chocolates . (chocolate)

2)       His favourite food is  …..  . (chocolate)

3)       She bought  ….. on her way to work. (paper)

4)       He placed all the important  ….. in his briefcase. (paper)

5)       I need some  ….. to write this message on. (paper)

6)       Hurry up! We don't have much  ….. . (time)

7)       She has visited us several  …. (time)

8)       He has no  ….. but he is keen to learn. (experience)

9)       We went for a walk in ….. after lunch. (wood)

10)    His desk is made of  ….. . (wood)


2.17. Choose one word  from the words below to complete each sentence. Mind the article if the word is countable or make it plural as appropriate.

chicken, dislike, improvement, language, life, success, education

1)       Mary used to keep chickens in her garden until they started to get out.

2)       A score of 40% may not be very good but it's certainly  ….. on her last mark.

3)       After so many previous  ….. it was inevitable that one of his films would be unpopular.

4)       ….. is too short to worry about keeping your house spotlessly clean.

5)       I've had  ….. of green vegetables ever since I was a child.

6)       Our students study both  ….. and literature in their English degree.

7)       I had to go through  very strict and traditional  ….. .


Категорія: English Grammar | Додав: Tan (28.10.2014)
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