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Concourse 2

More about articles

The three basic rules are:

  1. If I am talking about one of many and it doesn't matter which one:
    1. If the noun is uncountable or plural: use no article
    2. If the noun is singular: use a or an
  2. If I am talking about all of them everywhere:
    1. If the noun is singular: use the
    2. If the noun is plural or uncountable: use no article
  3. If I am talking about this one, this or these specifically:
    1. Use the for plural, singular and uncountable nouns
    2. Use no article for people and places
readand write Task 1: Read and write.
Look at these examples and decide which rule they are following.
Then click on the eye open to see some comments.
Pass me a pencil from the box in the corner
eye open
The first rule applies to the first article.  We want a pencil but it doesn't matter which one.
The third rule applies to the use of the.  We are talking specifically about a particular box in the corner.
I need to speak to John.
We have two Johns in the office.  Do you mean the John with red hair or the other John?
eye open
The third rule applies to the use of no article with John.  We do not use articles with proper names.
After that, the third rule applies: we are now talking about a specific John.
Nobody knows who invented the wheel but life today would be difficult without it
eye open
The second rule applies.  We are not talking a specific wheel but all wheels, everywhere.  We use the singular to represent all of them.
The word life is uncountable and we are referring to all lives, everywhere so we use no article.
Lions are dangerous animals but the lion in this zoo is quite tame
eye open
The second rule applies for the use of no article with lions because we are talking about all of them in the world.
The third rule applies to the use of the with lion because we are talking about a specific animal in the zoo.

If you didn't get all of that right, do the lesson on articles at B1/B2 level before you go on.
But that is not the end of the story.

Specifying and using the

It's easy to see that we use an article to talk about something unique: the sun, the moon, the boy's father, the box in the corner and so on.

readandthink Task 2: But what is happening in these sentences?
Look at the articles in red.
Click here when you have an answer for all 6 sentences.
  1. A car came to the house and the driver got out.
  2. I got on a train and took a seat.  The train was clean and the seat was comfortable.
  3. I want to speak to the manager.
  4. The United States of America is a wealthy country.
  5. The Seine runs through Paris.
  6. I'm having dinner with the Smiths.

Using no article

readandthink Task 3: We saw the basic rules for using no article above.
Here are some more sentences to think about.  Why do we sometimes not use articles here?
Click here when you have an answer for all 5 sentences.
  1. I went to school by bus and came home by train.
  2. The police came at dawn, almost at sunrise.
  3. After sunrise, the birds begin to sing.  By night, they are silent.
  4. During the day and especially in the morning, they sing loudly.
  5. They walked hand in hand.
test Task 4: Now take a test of all this.
Click here to test yourself.