Friday, 13 July 2012 16:20

English Matters

Written by  Kimberley Pounder
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In writing, sometimes it's the little things that make the most difference.  In this edition the CAMI Express investigates definite and indefinite articles.  We also provide you with some handy tables to support your learning and make sure that you are on the right path.  So make sure you read on to to improve your grammar skills!

 

An introduction to using the articles a, an and the

 

In the English language an article is a word or a group of words that introduces [make sure this whole sentence is in black font, not grey] a common noun. It is sometimes known as a determiner as it determines the type of noun that is being introduced. The three articles in English are a, an and the. Proper nouns do not require determiners.

 

Some languages do not require the use of a, an and the as they are implied in the sentence. Other languages have gender (masculine and feminine) determiners of a noun.

 

Basically, there are two types of articles in English: the definite article (the) and the indefinite (a/an).

 

When writing in English, it is important for the writer to make decisions about whether an article is required or not.

 

The table below summarises the basic decision making process.

 

Question Choices

1. Is it a proper noun? E.g. Sydney, St George State School If “Yes”, then no article is required.

If “No” then go to the next question.

 

2. Is it a question or statement where the words ‘any’ or ‘all’ may be implied? E.g. “Do you want (any) sugar in your tea?” or “I like (all types) music.”’, or “I don’t eat (any) cheese.”

If “Yes”, then no article is required.

If “No” then an article is required and further questions need to be answered.

 

When it has been determined that an article is required then a few more questions need to be answered.

 

3. 3. Can the noun be counted? This means that can we put a counting numeral before the noun. E.g. “One apple” makes sense so apples can be counted. “One water” does not make sense so water cannot be counted. If “Yes”, then go to the next question.

 

If “No” then use the definite article the.

 

4. Is the noun singular? If “Yes”, then go to the next question.

If “No” then use the definite article the.

5. Has the noun been mentioned previously? E.g. I saw a boat. The boat was red. If “Yes”, then use the definite article the.

If “No” then to go the next question.

 

6. Does the noun start with a vowel? If “Yes”, then use the indefinite article an.

If “No” then use the indefinite article a.

 

 

 

There are more complex rules involving articles which can be dealt with later but the basic decision as to whether an article is required or not is an important one in English grammar.

 

It is hoped that the table above will help students make the correct choice in their future writing.

Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 16:52
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