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The article is a structural part of speech used as a determiner with nouns. Since there are no articles in our native languages sometimes it is difficult to understand the rules of their usage. Why there is no article in Ukrainian or Russian? Because these languages are synthetic ones. We can easily determine any part of speech regarding their inflexions: рука, людина, вікно, лагідний, добре, працювати.
In English however, words of different parts of speech can be grammatically homonymous: a work – to work, a play – to play, so we need an article to determine the noun.
Moreover, in Ukrainian, there is no fixed word-order. It is possible to say: Вчора вчитель пояснював учням нову тему. або Вчитель пояснював нову тему учням вчора. In English it would be of fixed order. Yesterday the teacher explained the pupils a new topic.
While comparing these examples we can speak about something already known to the hearer (the theme) and something new (the rheme). The nouns which appear in the sentence as the theme are usually used with the definite article, and the nouns which are considered as the rheme are usually used with the indefinite article.
^ a cat. (Rheme)
The cat is black. (Theme)
As we see there are two articles in Modern English: the indefinite article and the definite article.
The indefinite article has the forms a and an.
a book, a pen, a student.
The article is pronounced /ə/, /ən /; when stressed it is pronounced /eI/, /æn/.
The definite article has one graphic form the, which is pronounced in two ways: /ði/ before a vowel sound and /ðə/ before a consonant sound.
The indefinite article has developed from the Old English numeral an (one), and as a result of its origin it is used only with nouns in the singular. ^ has developed from the Old English demonstrative pronoun and in some cases it has preserved this demonstrative meaning in Modern English. The use of the definite article shows that a particular object is meant.
These two articles are related to other determiners in the following way: the = this, that, the same; a (an) = some, any, such.
The absence of articles (sometimes called “zero” article) with class nouns in the plural, with abstract nouns and nouns of material has grammatical significance: it shows that the nouns are used in a general sense.
Exercise 1 Put the numbers in the sentences below into the correct row according to the pronunciation of “the”. The first one has been done for you.
/ði /: _1______________________________
Get the (1) address from the (2) post-office.
Only the (3) other afternoon, climbing up from the (4) Underground, I found the (5) staircase barred.
Compare that to the (6) UK figure of about 1000 deaths.
The (7) porter at the (8) door looked a shade bleak.
He is now the (9) enemy of God as well the (10) opponent of man.
The (11) ruse is basically the (12) same as the (13) one used by Odysseus.
They lived only five minutes from the (14) university.
Exercise 2 Complete these sentences by putting “a” or “an” in the spaces provided.
1. It is always fatal to ask _____ expert. 2. Secretive as _____ boy of six, secretive as _____ old man of seventy. 3. _____ brilliant young woman with _____ M.A. degree. 4. She dislikes him as _____ being, as _____ creature, as _____ appearance. 5. I prefer management on _____ one-to-one basis. 6. _____ hour _____ day would be enough.
Exercise 3 Put the following words or phrases in the correct category according to their initial sound. The first one has been done for you. When you have finished, practice saying them together with “a”, “an”, and “the”.
Pronounced with an initial consonant sound; use “the” /ðə/ or “a” /ə/: ______________________________________________________
Pronounced with an initial vowel sound; use “the” /ði/ or “an” /ən/: _arm_________________________________________________________
Exercise 4 Write “a” or “an” in the spaces.
The Use of the Indefinite Article with Class Nouns
Class nouns are used with the indefinite article:
1. When the speaker mentions a noun (which is countable) for the first time:
For lunch I had a sandwich and an apple.
It is also used in sentences beginning with “there is/was”:
There is a newspaper on the table.
2. When the speaker presents the object expressed by the noun as belonging to a certain class. In this case the indefinite article has the meaning of “який-небудь”, “якийсь”, “один” (in the meaning of 'деякий').
A lady is calling you up, sir.
This is the nominating meaning as we give a name to an object we have in mind:
A man and a woman sat opposite us, but they did not talk.
We saw a house with a lawn in front of it.
When we want to emphasize that we can’t say exactly which person or thing we are talking about because we don’t know or can’t remember, we can use some instead of a/an with a singular noun:
^ some student.
In the plural no article is used in this case. But if the idea of number is implied in the case of the nominating meaning plural nouns may be preceded by words like some, several, a few or by a numeral:
Two (some) men and two (a few) women sat opposite us
I liked the room because there were flowers in it.
"I have brought you some flowers..."
We sometimes use some or zero article with very little difference in meaning:
“Where were you last week?” “I was visiting (some) friends.” (It makes no difference whether we are referring to particular friends (with some) or friends in general (with zero article))
3. With a predicative noun, when the speaker states that the object denoted by the noun belongs to a certain class (it is one of a class and has the meaning of „один з багатьох”)
^ an artist.
My husband is a sailor.
Tom is a very nice person.
This may be called the classifying meaning:
Her brother was a student at Balliol College.
His aunt, a woman of uncertain age, was also present at the ceremony.
In the plural neither the article nor the pronoun some is used.
Her brothers were students at Balliol College.
They are good children, no doubt.
After the conjunction as a predicative noun is often used without an article.
She was engaged as governess.
4. When the noun is used in a general sense. What is said of one representative of a class can be applied to all the representatives of the class. The article has the meaning of 'every'.
A good dog deserves a good bone.
A drowning man catches at a straw.
An actor must learn to live with criticism.
This is the generalizing meaning the indefinite article. It indicates that the following noun denotes a typical member of a class:
A cat is a domestic animal. (= Every cat is a domestic animal.)
A tiger is dangerous. (= Every tiger is dangerous.)
Plural nouns in the generalizing meaning are used without any articles:
Cats are domestic animals. Tigers are dangerous.
This use is common in explanations of meanings and in some dictionary definitions.
In grammar, a noun is a word which is used to refer to a person, a thing, or an abstract idea.
Note 1: You cannot use this pattern when you want to talk about the location or existence of a type of animal, thing or person; for example, you cannot say: “A ring-tailed lemur lives in Madagascar”; you would have to say “Ring-tailed lemurs live in Madagascar”.
Note 2: ‘Any’ sometimes has a similar but more emphatic meaning.
The greatest threat to any actor is the presumption that knowledge can be automatically transposed into experience.
5. There are cases when the indefinite article preserves its old original meaning of 'one'.
He had hardly spoken a word.
In such cases we can speak of the numeric meaning of the indefinite article:
An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening.
This meaning is generally found with:
A week or two passed.
"I'll overtake you in a minute," said Godfrey.
a lot of, a couple, a great many, etc.
She’s a colleague of mine.
That’s a friend of Bill’s
not a word, not a thought, etc.
My new car cost a thousand pounds.
Sometimes we can use either a/an or one:
We’ll be in Australia for one (or a) year.
Wait here for one (or a) minute, and I’ll be with you.
Using one gives a little more emphasis to the number. However, we use one rather than a/an if we want to emphasize that we are talking about only one person or thing rather than two or more:
Do you want one sandwich or more?
Are you staying just one night?
With nouns in the plural some is used.
Oliver's sobs checked his utterance for some minutes.
Note1: We use one, not a/an in the pattern one…other/ another:
Close one eye, and then the other.
Bees carry pollen from one plant to another.
Note2: We use one with the words day, week, month, year, night, winter, etc. or with specific day or month to say when something happened usually in narration to mean a particular, but unspecified day, evening, winter, etc.:
One summer, the family decided to go to the Crimea.
We can use one day to refer to the future.
One day, you will regret this.
6. Before singular, countable nouns after such and in exclamations after what.
What a lovely day today!
It’s such an interesting idea, isn’t it?
But What pretty girls!
7. Nouns with the indefinite article are used after quite and rather.
It’s quite a long story and not a nice one.
He was rather a curious man to look at.
Sometimes quite and rather can be placed after the indefinite article (especially in AmE)
He is a rather clever man.
It’s a quite important problem.
8. Nouns with the indefinite article follow many) the verb is used in the singular)
Many a true word is spoken in jest.
Many an evening he sat staring at the fire.
9. So, as, too, how, however followed by an adjective precede nouns with the indefinite article:
Youth lasts so short a time.
You have too modest an opinion of yourself.
I can’t miss the chance, however big a risk to run.
How honest a man is he?
10. The indefinite article is also used in various descriptions:
He’s got a long face and a turned up nose.
Exercise 1 Determine the meaning of the indefinite article in the following sentences. Translate into Ukrainian, rendering the meaning of the indefinite article where possible.
1. But I dare say you don't remember an old woman like me? 2. After a pause, Lord Henry pulled out his watch. 3. She glanced at Peter and saw that a tear was trickling down his nose. 4. A voice replied, telling him to keep out of the moonlight. 5. Why is it a girl who has to be so silly to catch a husband? 6. I remember now, I thought I felt a bone, and I swallowed a large mouthful of bread to send it down. 7. A traveller must be able to walk long distances. 8. He had met a young woman at a party, named May Macy, a moving-picture actress. 9. Bart tossed an empty cigarette packet over the rail, his mouth hard, his eyes shadowed. 10. Not a word was spoken, not a sound was made. 11. A fighter is supposed to get beaten up, isn't he? 12. He hesitated a moment at the door and tapped on it. 13. The girl had started through a door to an inner office. 14. Can a bird fly faster than an aeroplane? 15. Bill had just finished an all-afternoon conference with a media representative. 16. Edward left his employment with them nearly a year ago. 17. A week or two passed, but he hadn't got a job. 18. It is dark here and I cannot see what you have brought; is it a book or a magazine? 19. I meant I was a youthful thing and unimportant, and that there was no need to include me in the conversation. 20. Sally's seed of her future soul was her love for her mother, an aged bedridden woman.
Exercise 2 Insert a/an, some or any where necessary.
1. ____ letter of or to ____ soldier can be sent without ____ stamp. 2. ____ drug-store in the USA and Canada is ____ shop where one can get not only ____ medicines but also ____ drinks and snacks. 3. ____ days passed, but there weren’t ____ signs of ____ change coming. 4. There remained ____ toast, ____ rolls, and ____ bun on the plate. 5. Shall I treat you to ____ apple or ____ pear? – I always prefer ____ apples to ____pears. 6. Give me ____ nail. I bought ____ picture and want to have it fixed. 7. The other day I spoke to ____ geologists who told me that ____ new deposit of diamonds had been found in this region. 8. ____ man’s jacket usually has ____ breast pocket. 9. I expect to get ____ letter from them in two weeks. 10. When ____ tankmen return from the army to their native village they very often become ____ drivers or ____ mechanics.
Exercise 3 Correct the sentences if necessary or put a/an. Mark sentences in which both one and a/an are possible.
1. I teach four days one week. 2. Jenny’s baby is only one week old. 3. Have you got one match, please? 4. You won’t believe this, but it cost over one thousand pounds. 5. One summer, we must visit Sweden again. 6. They cost $10 one kilo. 7. I’ve known him for one year or so. 8. She’s already written one novel since she retired. 9. Help! There is one mouse in the cupboard! 10. She’s one cousin of the king’s. 11. When you get to my age, you just take one day at a time. 12. Cross-country skiing is easy. Just put one foot in front of the other. 13. Can I have one little more rice? 14. One large quantity of petrol escaped from the tank. 15. We hadn’t got one baseball bat, so we had to use one tennis racket. 16. I had one last look around the house, locked the door and left.
Exercise 4 Which is correct or more likely, a/an or one? If both a/an and one are possible, write them both.
1. It weights over _____ hundred kilos. 2. I only asked for _____ pizza – I didn’t want three of them. 3. I wouldn’t allow _____ child of mine to be treated in that way. 4. It only took us _____ week to drive to Greece. 5. I’ve always wanted to own _____ silver-coloured car. 6. _____ sandwich isn’t enough. I usually eat four or five. 7. Policies differ from _____ state to another. 8. Less than three quarters of _____ hour later, she was at home. 9. All of the competitors completed the race, with just _____ exception. 10. She left home late _____ morning and hasn’t been seen since. 11. The best way to learn _____ musical instrument is to find _____ enthusiastic teacher. 12. Somewhere in the distance, _____ bell rang.
Exercise 5 Work out these simple problems.
Exercise 6 Look at the noun groups underlined in the sentences below. Where you think the speaker or writer is familiar with the items referred to, complete the sentences by putting 'it' in the spaces provided. Where you think the writer or reader is not familiar with the items referred to, put 'one'.
Exercises 7 Look at these sentences. Decide if you can replace 'one' with 'a' without changing the meaning, putting 'yes' or 'no' in the spaces provided.
Now, with these sentences, decide if you can replace 'a' with 'one'.
Exercise 8 Change into sentences with “what” and “such”. Insert article where necessary.
Example: Mary, is, pretty girl.
What a pretty girl Mary is.
Mary is such a pretty girl.
Exercise 9 Give examples of interrogative and exclamatory sentences beginning with what, following the model. Pay attention to the order of words.
Exercise 10 Make up sentences with the following words. Pay attention to the place of article.
1. Beautiful picture, so, I, have never seen.
2. Difficult question, too, is, this.
3. Puzzling question, is, it, rather.
4. Rather, is, long story, it.
5. Poem, by Robert Burns, many, set to music, is.
6. Have never read, interesting book, I, so.
7. Such, have never read, interesting book, I.
8. Too, is, short string, this.
9. Is, quite, little room, it.
10. Many, of this specialist, article, in magazines, was published.
11. Ordinary thing, is, quite, it.
Exercise 11 Explain why the indefinite article is used with one and the same noun repeated several times in the following extracts.
Jack: Lady Bracknell, I hate to seem inquisitive, but would you kindly inform me who I am?
Lady Bracknell: You are the son of my poor sister, Mrs. Monscriff, and consequently Algernon's elder brother.
^ Algy's elder brother. Then I have a brother after all! I knew I had a brother! I always said I had a brother. Cecily — how could you have ever doubted that I had a brother! Algy, you young scoundrel, you have never behaved to me like a brother in all your life.
Exercise 12 Translate the following sentences into English.
1.Містер Твістер ніколи не виходив з дому без калош та парасольки. 2.У маленькій кімнаті книжкова полиця зручніша, ніж шафа. 3. Нещодавно я познайомився з одним моряком; він щойно повернувся з навколосвітньої подорожі. 4. Він любить пити не з чашки, а тільки зі склянки. 5. У морському параді взяли участь підводні човни й авіаносець. 6. Я не палю сигари. Не могли б ви пригостити мене цигаркою. 7. Не проїхали ми й кілометру, як щось трапилося з колесом. 8. Ви можете дати мені почитати якийсь журнал? – В мене є зараз журнали, але не думаю, що вони вас зацікавлять. 9. Скільки людей може вмістити такий зал як цей? 10. Така проблема має вас зацікавити. 11. Мені потрібно купити поштову марку. 12. Це була висока біла будівля: позаду будівлі розташовувався великий сад. 13. Вона не промовила ні слова у відповідь. 14. Фіалка не пахне так солодко, як конвалія. 15. Ти купив яблуко дитині? 16. Вона зробила крок назустріч йому. 17. Вона була досить молодою жінкою і такою привабливою. 18. Це дуже важка для тебе гра. 19. В цій книжці є цілком докладний опис подій. 20. Ти навчаєшся в такій видатній школі. 21. Багато цікавих питань було обговорено під час зустрічі.
Exercise 13 Translate the following sentences into English.
1. Час зробити перерву та перекусити. – Гарна думка! 2. Якщо хочеш зробити доповідь англійською мовою, тобі потрібен словник. 3. Мій друг – гід. Він дуже гарний перекладач. 4. Я не начальник, я звичайний службовець. 5. Дочка моєї сестри дуже мила дитина. 6. Він відомий критик. Між іншим, він ще і не поганий письменник. 7. Коли я була дитиною, в нашому домі завжди була тварина. 8. Це було велике місто. Це було дуже сучасне місто. 9. Х’ю – розумний хлопчик. До того ж він дуже ввічлива дитина. 10. У Стівена є друг в Америці і дядько в Австралії. 11. Вчора я написав листа і пішов гуляти. 12. Я не можу піти з тобою на прогулянку. В мене побачення. 13. В неї ангельське обличчя і приємний голос. 14. Мері не була привабливою дитиною, в неї було худе сердите обличчя і рідке світле волосся. 15. Це дуже гарне питання. Ти завжди ставиш розумні питання. 16. Півтора року досить, щоб закінчити цю роботу. 17. Лікар має бути добрим, уважним та знаючим. 18. Бібліотека – це установа, де можна взяти книжки на тиждень, або навіть на місяць. 19. Ніколи раніше я не зустрічав такої доброї людини. 20. Яка велика кімната! Які зручні меблі!
The Use of the Definite Article with Class Nouns
The definite article is used both with singular and plural nouns. It has the specifying meaning and the generic meaning.
In the specifying meaning the definite article denotes that the following noun refers to a particular object (thing, person) or particular objects as distinct from all others of the same class.
^ the room except the plants.
The definite article is used in the generic meaning when reference is made to a class of objects as a whole.
The tiger is dangerous.
The cat is a domestic animal.
Class nouns are used with the definite article:
1. When the speaker mentions a noun for the second time:
For lunch I had a sandwich and an apple. The sandwich wasn’t very nice.
If it is clear what item the speaker is referring back to, he normally uses a pronoun.
I have bought a book. It cost $2.50.
He can also use another, more general noun.
There was an enormous cat crouching on the counter… The animal looked up at Mrs. Bixby.
Angelica took the shell in both her hands and we peered at the thing.
Sometimes, however, the noun with definite article should be repeated:
Suddenly Marsha heard what sounded like a fight between a man and a woman. She tensed, prepared to call help, till she realized that the woman seemed to be getting the better of it.
Lyn lived with her husband in a house that they had bought for a song in nearby Seyer Street. The house was cheap partly because it was falling down.
2. When the speaker and the hearer know what particular object is meant. No special indication is necessary.
What do you think of the table? (= the table we are looking at)
How did you like the play?
I have got the magazine.
Note It should be borne in mind that, there is a difference between knowing what object is spoken about and knowing the object itself.
I. - I do not care to speak to the girl. I have never seen her.
- Won't you speak to her?
- But I do not know the girl either.
II. - Who told you about it?
In the first dialogue the speaker and the hearer do not know the person at all, but they know whom they mean, so the definite article is used. In the second the speaker knows the person, but he presents her to the hearer merely as one of a class, so the indefinite article is used.
3. When the speaker uses an attribute pointing out a particular object.
This is the house that Jack built.
4. When the situation itself makes the object definite and when the speaker wants to talk about something that is associated with an earlier item (even though he hasn’t mentioned it before) just to show that there is a relationship or association between the items.
^ The bride was too old and the bridegroom was too young.
I went to the window again to try to smash the glass. (the glass in the window)
He needed a whisky, but the bottle was empty. ( bottle containing the whisky)
5. When the noun denotes the object or group of objects, which is unique or considered to be unique.
Here are some words, which belong to this group.
The sun was getting warmer.
The indefinite article can be used when we mean a certain aspect in which the sun, moon and sky appear to us, a certain state of the sun, the moon, the sky. In this case an attribute is used.
A pearl-white moon smiles through the green trees.
6. With nouns used in a generic sense. A noun used in a generic sense denotes a genus taken as a whole, a thing taken as a type, a genre. A noun becomes a composite image (збірний образ) of the class and is used to talk about the general features and characteristics of a class of things.
The tiger has always had the reputation of being a man-eater.
The telephone was invented in the 19th century.
The tragedy and the comedy first appeared in Greece.
Note Groups of nouns which are used generically: names of animals, plants, professions and occupations, collective nouns denoting social groups, scientific terms, etc.
The verb is a part of speech.
When the noun man is used in a generic sense no article is used.
Silas felt that his trust in man had been cruelly destroyed.
When the noun woman is used in a generic sense it is used with the definite article or occasionally without an article.
He had always been interested in that mysterious being — the woman.
Woman is man's helpmate.
The noun people is used with the definite article when the idea of collectivity is emphasized (meaning “all the persons forming a state”). When this noun means “persons, human beings in general” it has no article.
The Ukrainian people are fighting against nuclear danger.
People often believe in fairy tails.
The public is always used with the definite article but public opinion – set-phrase.
A noun used in a generic sense should not be confused with a noun used in a general sense.
7. When nouns are modified by adjectives in the superlative degree and by ordinal numerals.
Miss Tox had the softest voice that ever was heard.
8. With nouns in word-groups the first component of which is some, many, none, most, all, both, half, one-third (the fractions) and the second a noun with the preposition of. Often, of the makes the situation specific.
Most of the students looked both angry and uncomfortable.
Note1 With all, both, half the preposition of may be omitted before article:
Both the girls were rosy-cheeked and plump like their mothers.
All the children in the room looked at Santa Claus.
“Half the people who want to learn to fly never come back for lesson number two,” Charlie said.
In general statements without modifiers after the nouns and in cases, when there is no desire to be specific, of the may be omitted.
All children like sweets.
Both men wore conservative business suits.
9. When nouns are modified by adjectives which are used to identify unique things.
They even use the same lawyers.
The next attack took place four hours later.
I began the last section of the book.
Here is a list of adjectives, which are used in this way:
This is not a rule, only a strong tendency; the indefinite article sometimes occurs with them (except with ’next’, “following”, and “same”
He paid a last visit to America.
The indefinite article can be used before ‘only’ when it is used in the expressions ‘only child’, ‘only son’, and ‘only daughter’
I was an only child.
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