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Articles with certain word groups



When you are talking about a specific occurrence of a season, you usually use the definite article.


You 'll feel better in the spring.


In dates you say, for example, 'spring 1974' but 'the spring of 1974'.


When you are talking generally about a season or what happens in a season, you can use the definite article or no article.


I do some rock-climbing in the summer, ski in the winter.

It was a wide, high-ceilinged room, excessively cold in winter.


Note that you do not usually use the definite article after 'It is' or 'It was'.


Now it was truly spring.


You can pick out one particular period using the indefinite article.


I spent a summer in the Cyclades.


In American English it is more common to refer to the seasons with the definite article (except after 'next' and 'last').

Months and days of the week

With the names of months and days of the week you usually use no article when you want to relate a period to the present, for example 'on Tuesday', 'in May'.

...at their meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

...since it first appeared in December.


However, you can use the indefinite article with the days of the week to identify one day of the week in general.


Don't do it on a Monday.

It was always washing on a Monday and baking on a Wednesday.


Compare this with 'He bought it on Monday', meaning 'last Monday'.


You can use the definite or indefinite article with qualification or modification to refer to one particular day.


...Monday April 17, an ordinary Monday.

...not later than the second Monday in May.


A definite article without modification suggests a day in the week you are talking about.


It got under way at two o'clock on the Tuesday, having been meant to start on the previous Friday.


Parts of the day

You can use articles in the normal way when referring to a part of one particular day. You can also use the definite article when you want to stress one part as opposed to others.

The best times to take the temperature are in the first part of the morning and late in the afternoon.

Traditionally cooking was carried out in the evening.

Sometimes I wake in the night in a panic.

...if you swim only during the day.


Here 'day' does not refer to a 24-hour period, but only to part of one (as opposed to night); if you want to make this clear you can use 'daytime'.


...especially in the daytime.


'Night' is used after 'at' and 'by' without an article. You can also say 'by day'.


The practice of giving a baby a bottle of water at night is a bad one.


Longer periods


Words like 'day', 'week', 'month', 'year', and so on, are typically countable nouns and so can be used with both the definite and indefinite articles.


...the day after the trial.

She had loved him for over a year.

A week later she woke up screaming.


Like 'day', 'week' has two meanings. It can be used to refer to a period of seven days, as above, or to the days between two weekends. The expression 'during the week' can be used to mean 'on the days between weekends'.


People used to come at the weekends, but during the week I was alone in that huge house.


Specific periods


Names of decades, centuries and historic periods, which refer to only one particular period, have the definite article, for example 'the nineteen-eighties', 'the nineteenth century', 'the iron age'.


...the sexual revolution of the sixties.


'Past', 'present', and 'future'

'Past', 'present', and 'future' generally have the definite article.


...the dangers in thinking only of the present.

...plans for the future.

...more people than I had ever been responsible for in the past.


But 'present' and 'future' can be used after 'at' and 'in' respectively with no article.


...since there is no certain answer at present.

Try to remember it in future.


In American English 'in the future' is used rather than 'in future'.


It is possible to use an indefinite article when talking about the life of one particular person: 'He has a future', 'a man with a past'.


Article usage with the names of illnesses and other conditions is sometimes inconsistent, and can vary with the same word. Normally nouns referring to illnesses are uncountable and do not have an indefinite or definite article.


...evidence that they caused cancer.


Here is a list of common words like this.


AIDS diarrhoea malaria tuberculosis
anaemia hepatitis pneumonia typhoid
appendicitis herpes rabies yellow fever
cancer influenza rheumatism  
cholera laryngitis smallpox  
diabetes leukaemia tonsillitis  



'Cancer' can also be countable, but combinations with it are uncountable, for example 'lung cancer'.


With the names of some common infectious diseases the definite article can be used, as well as no article, but it is not as common.

This applies to 'flu' (but not 'influenza'), 'measles', 'mumps', and 'chickenpox'.


She's coming down with the flu.

I had a mild attack of flu.

...unlike the measles itself.

...the first symptoms of measles.


The names of less specific conditions, such as 'cold', 'chill', or 'cough', are treated as simple countable nouns.


...when someone has a cold.


Words ending in '-ache' behave in different ways, in British English. 'Earache', 'toothache', 'backache', 'stomach-ache', and so on can be uncountable or countable, so you can say 'I've got earache' and 'I've got an earache'.

He was suffering from severe earache.

One morning she developed an earache.

...various infusions which she used for sore eyes, toothache and muscular pains.

...when a woman with a toothache was brought to us.


'Headache', however, is a countable noun, and so you can have 'a headache' or regular 'headaches', but you cannot say 'I've got headache'.


Next morning she complained of a headache.


In American English, all '-ache' words are countable nouns, so it is not possible to say 'I've got earache', and so on.

1.11.Names of meals


You can refer to meals without using an article when you are talking in general about the standard meals of the day.


Tim had dinner in the hotel.

Breakfast was already waiting for her.


If you are talking about individual meals, you can use the nouns 'breakfast', 'lunch', and so on as countable nouns with an appropriate article. When used like this, the nouns are usually qualified or modified; you do not normally say 'I had a breakfast.'


...the main virtue of a hot breakfast.

...after a relaxed breakfast.


'Lunch' and 'dinner' can also be used alone with the indefinite article to mean a special formal occasion.


Afterwards, Her Royal Highness attended a dinner at the Castle Hotel.

It would be unusual to say 'I've been invited to a breakfast' since breakfast is not usually a formal occasion.

1.12.Parts of the body

Names of parts of the body, like 'hand', 'face', and 'knee', are usually countable nouns used with the indefinite or definite article according to the standard rules of use. There is also a use where we are thinking of parts of the body not as separate organs or limbs but as locations on the body. For this you can use the definite article.

They might dash out later and stab them in the back.

She had the urge to beat him over the head.


It is possible to use the definite article with a singular noun even when there are two possible parts.


Stein took Breslow by the arm.

...to shake him by the hand

It bit her on the leg.

He was wounded in the leg too.


Here there is no suggestion that Breslow has only one arm (mentioned before) or that 'he' has only one leg; the part of the body is all that is important, not which side.


You use the definite article like this when the noun referring to the body part is included in a prepositional phrase ('in the back', 'by the arm') after a verb of touching or injuring ('shake', 'bite'), and the person whose body you are referring to has just been mentioned ('them', 'Breslow').


When the noun comes straight after a verb such as 'grab' or after a verb and a preposition, for example 'step on', you have to use a possessive determiner like 'their' or 'his'; for example, you have to say 'I stepped on his foot' not 'I stepped on the foot'. Sometimes there are alternatives: 'I shook him by the hand' or 'I shook his hand'.


The black-haired youth grabbed her arm and shook her.

Robert touched her cheek.


You can also use the definite article when referring to a touch, blow, or pain.


...giving me a friendly pat on the shoulder.

I have a pain in the side.


1.13 Special roles

Some nouns can refer to a special, unique role held by a person in a particular situation (for example, a government or business). When they are used like this, you can leave out the definite article.



...when he was President.

It was nearly 40 years before she became Queen.

...Mr John Hume, leader of the Social and Democratic Labour Party.


It would be unnatural to leave in the definite article and say 'when he was the President' or 'she became the Queen', although you can leave it in when the noun is followed by 'of'. Some words commonly used in this way are:


author chairman king queen
best man chairperson leader secretary
boss director manager treasurer
captain goalkeeper president  
centre forward head prime minister  


The context is very important. In a gang, one person can be 'leader'; in a football team, one person can be 'captain', 'centre forward', or 'goalkeeper'; at a wedding one person can be 'best man'; in a country one person can be 'king', 'queen', 'president', or 'prime minister'. Many other nouns can be used in this way in a particular context.


Note that when you are talking about a person rather than describing someone's role you need an article.


The President had issued a sympathetic reply.

The Queen then abandoned the project.

1.14 Grammatical terms


The words that linguists use to describe certain words or constructions in English often have the definite article. We talk about 'the past participle', 'the present tense', 'the active voice', or nouns which are 'in the singular'.


In clauses like these you use a verb which is in the present tense.

With most verbs which end in 'e' the present participle is formed by substituting 'ing' for the final 'e'.


With these terms you can use the indefinite article if you want to describe one particular instance: 'Singing is a present participle'. You could also say 'Singing is an example of the present participle' or 'Singing is the present participle of sing'.


The most important cases in this book are of course 'the definite article' and 'the indefinite article'. Here are some examples taken from earlier chapters.


The indefinite article has two forms, both in speech and writing.

However, it is not true to say that all these nouns only occur with the definite article.


You can use the indefinite article if you want to pick out one particular instance, as in 'He used an indefinite article where I would have used a definite article'.



2.1. Using the definite article with geographical and place names

You use the definite article with the following types of geographical or place names:


Groups of islands, for example: the British Isles, the Hawaiian Islands.


...a deposit account in the Channel Islands.

It was his custom to spend his holidays in the Scilly Isles.


Sometimes there are alternatives; for example, you can say 'the Orkney Islands' or 'the Orkneys'.


Mountain ranges and groups of hills, for example: the Alps, the Himalayas, the North Downs.


I had never climbed in the Alps in winter.


Sometimes there are alternatives; for example, you can say 'the Rocky Mountains' or 'the Rookies'.


Geographical regions, for example: the Midlands, the Middle East, the Punjab, the Crimea, the Dordogne, the South of England.


The home-ownership rate in the South East of England is higher than in the North.

...in a mill in the Dordogne.


Note that these are different from political and administrative regions.


Deserts, for example: the Sahara, the Gobi Desert.


...Africa south of the Sahara.


Rivers, streams and canals, for example: the Thames, the Mississippi, the Nile, the Panama Canal. With rivers you can include 'river' as part of the name: the River Severn.


...along the flood plains of rivers like the Soar and the Severn.

The Suez Canal was blocked.

...the annual conferences held at Konigswinter on the River Rhine.


Seas and oceans, for example: the Indian Ocean, the North Sea.


Here the Baltic Sea narrows to the Kattegat.

Bicycling across America. From the Atlantic to the Pacific.


Sometimes there are alternatives with or without 'sea' or 'ocean'; for example, you can say 'the Atlantic' or 'the Atlantic Ocean', 'the Mediterranean' or 'the Mediterranean Sea'.


Other sea features. Other features of seas and coastlines usually have the definite article, for example: the English Channel, the Straits of Dover, the Gulf of Mexico (for bays see below).

...an attempt to cross the English Channel in a small plane.

...on the north shore of the Firth of Forth.

...a blockade of the Straits of Hormuz.

NOTE On maps the definite article is usually not shown

2.2. Geographical and place names without an article

With the following types of proper nouns there is usually no article:


Continents, such as: Europe, America, Mrica, Asia, Antarctica.


As a result Africa was full of refugees.


But you say 'the African Continent'.


Countries, such as: Britain, France, Germany, China, India, Australia.


...some of the allies, notably France and Canada.


However, some names of countries have the definite article, in particular those which contain common nouns: the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United States of America, the United Kingdom. This is the same with abbreviated alternatives: the USSR, the USA, the UK, and so on.


...the 1920s car sales boom in the USA.


Sometimes a name without the has an official alternative with the: China or the People's Republic of China.


Plurals also have the: the Netherlands, the Philippines. With the names of countries that have developed from geographical regions there are often two possibilities, with or without the definite article: Sudan or the Sudan, Yemen or the Yemen, Argentina or the Argentine, Cameroun or the Cameroons, Ukraine or the Ukraine, Ivory Coast or the Ivory Coast. The tendency is to use the form without the definite article.


...African leaders meeting in Ivory Coast.


Political and administrative regions of countries, for example: California, Hampshire.


...in a little valley of Bavaria.

...at his home in Kent.


Villages, towns and cities, for example: Chiddingstone, Tonbridge, London.


A car passed them, heading towards London.


There is the exceptional case of 'The Hague', where the definite article is a fixed part of the place name.




He worked as a tugboat man on San Francisco Bay.

...a mystery tour round Morecambe Bay.

However, where there are two nouns separated by 'of', the definite article is used, for example: the Bay of Bengal, the Bay of Biscay, the Bay of Pigs, the Bay of Fundy.

...the resort of Biarritz, on the Bay of Biscay.




...overlooking the calm waters of Lake Michigan.


There are some exceptions: the Great Salt Lake, the Lake of Geneva (also Lake Geneva).


Individual islands, for example: Ireland, Bermuda, Sicily, Borneo.


...their breeding grounds south-west of Bermuda.

...the statues of Easter Island.


However, there are exceptions when two nouns have 'of in between: the Isle of Man, the Isle of Wight.


Individual mountains, for example: Ben Nevis, (Mount) Everest, Mont Blanc, Mount Fuji, and so on.


They simply wanted to go and climb Everest.


Some names of foreign mountains keep the definite article: the Matterhorn.

2.3. Names of buildings and institutions

There is no obvious rule for names of buildings and institutions; they are dealt with group by group in the following pages.


The following names typically have the definite article (although on maps the definite article is usually not shown):


Hotels, restaurants and pubs, for example: the Ritz, the Hilton, the Copper Kettle, the Royal Oak.


I haven't the least idea how many rooms there are in the Ritz.


But restaurants whose name is the possessive form of a person's name have no definite article: Luigi's.


Theatres and cinemas, for example: the Odeon, the Globe.


Everything would now depend on the first night at the Lyric.


Note that the definite article may distinguish a theatre from the street it is in: the Whitehall (a theatre), Whitehall (a street).


Museums and galleries, for example: the British Museum, the National Gallery.

...two works recently acquired by the Tate Gallery, London.

The original is in the British Museum.



The following groups of proper nouns typically have no article:


Stations and airports, for example: Heathrow (Airport), Euston (Station).


...in the train on the way to Euston.

Heathrow is to be expanded through a fourth terminal.


Schools, colleges and universities, for example: Manchester Grammar School, Dartmouth College, Cambridge University, Kent State University.


...a physical education student at Carnegie College.

...ecology graduates from Edinburgh University.


There are many universities which are referred to with expressions including 'of', and these have the definite article, for example: the University of Wales; but if abbreviated there is no article: UCLA (the University of California at Los Angeles). Many universities have both possibilities: London University, the University of London (which is the official name).


...filmed by scientists at the University of Chicago.


Churches, cathedrals and abbeys, for example: St Peter's, Canterbury Cathedral, Westminster Abbey.


...and later they were confirmed in Westminster Abbey.

It was proposed to pull down Chartres Cathedral.


But with abbeys named after religious orders, and with those followed by 'of', there is a definite article: the Dominican Abbey, the Abbey of Cluny.


NOTE When you refer back to a particular building, you can use the definite article in front of the word for the building, which keeps its capital letter.


And so round to the north side of the Cathedral.

2.4. Names of streets and roads


Names of streets, roads and squares tend to have no article, for example: Oxford Street, Charing Cross Road, Park Lane, Broadway, Pennsylvania Avenue.


Turn right off Broadway into Caxton Street.

It lies between Leicester Square on the south and Oxford Street on the north.

...second-hand bookshops in CharingCross Road.


There are a number of exceptions to this, for example: the High Street (in any town), and two streets in London: the Mall, the Strand. Certain roads can have the definite article or no article: (the) Edgware Road, (the) Old Kent Road.


...with the Mall on the north and Birdcage

Walk on the south. She followed them along the Edgware Road


Highways and motorways tend to have the definite article, for example: the AI, the Ml, the New Jersey Turnpike.

The Ml was down to a single lane in places.


Names of foreign streets and squares tend to keep the definite article if there is one in the original language: the Via Veneto, the Reperbahn, the Boulevard St Michel.


...one situated in the Place Vendome and the other in the Rue Cambon.


NOTE When street names are parts of addresses, the definite article sometimes can and sometimes must be left out: '24 (the) High Street', '104 Edgware Road'.


The definite article is not used in street signs.

2.5. Names of ships, trains and spacecraft

The names of ships usually have the definite article: the Titanic, the Queen Elizabeth, the Exxon Valdez.


...and eventually the Queen Elizabeth put to sea.


The names of smaller boats usually have no article.


The front runner will undoubtedly be Richard Matthews's converted America`s Cup 12-metre yacht, Crusader.


Established train services have the definite article: the Orient Express.


Spacecraft tend to have no article: Challenger, Apollo 17.

2.6. Names of sporting events

Names of sporting events usually have the definite article: the Superbowl, the Olympic Games, the World Cup, the Cup Final, the Boat Race, the Grand National, the British Open, and so on.


...events like the World Championship and the Olympic Games.


You can pick out one particular case of such an event by using the definite or indefinite article: 'I've never been to a Cup Final'.


Names which are taken from the place where the event occurs do not have the definite article: Wimbledon (for tennis), Ascot and Epsom (for horse-racing events), Henley (for rowing).


...Centre Court seats for Wimbledon, boxes for Ascot.

2.7. Names of festivals

Names of religious and other festivals have no article: Christmas, Easter, Lent, Carnival, Corpus Christi, Ramadan, Midsummer's Day, Mother's Day, New Year's Day, St Valentine's Day, and so on. (But note the 4th of July.)


Easter is a great time in Poland.

...the last two weeks of Lent.


But you can pick out one particular event by using the definite or indefinite article.


...the rare luxury of a Christmas at home.


2.8. Names of organizations


Some names of organizations have the definite article, and some have no article.


Names of well-known organizations typically have the definite article, and they keep it when they are abbreviated: the United Nations (the UN), the BBC, the Labour Party, the FBI, the EC.


The Labour Party has a job to do.

The TUC runs ten-day courses all over the country.

The BBC never reported my speeches.

...the role of the UN during the election period.

...something to do with the United Nations.


If an abbreviation is pronounced as a word, then there is no article. So 'the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' is usually called 'OPEC '/əupek/. Other examples are 'NATO' /nəitau/ and 'UNICEF /ju:nisef/.


...as a member of NATO.


Some names of charities do not have the definite article: Oxfam, Christian Aid, Mencap.


You usually refer to businesses and chains of shops with no article: General Motors, Sony, Woolworths, Shell, Nissan, Singapore Airlines.


You could have gone to Woolworths.

Now Collins have brought it out in a new translation.


This applies even when an abbreviation is used which is not pronounced as a word: BP /bi:pi:/ (British Petroleum), KLM, BA, ICI, IBM and so on.


...corporations like IBM, RCA and Xerox.


However, if a word like 'company' is used, then the definite article is used: the Bell Telephone Company. You can find alternatives like: 'General Electric' and 'GEe' as well as 'the General Electric Company'.

2.9. Names of newspapers and periodicals


Names of newspapers published in English tend to have the definite article, including almost all the British national daily newspapers: the Times, the Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, the Sun, the Star; the one exception is: Today.


...the city editor of the Washington Post.

...in an article in the Times.


You do not use the with the names of foreign newspapers: Pravda, Le Monde, Der Spiegel.

...a long and thoughtful article in Le Monde.


Names of periodicals such as magazines and journals have either the definite article or no article: Punch, Newsweek, ELT Journal, the Journal of American Psychology, the Spectator.


...a collection of tales which previously appeared in Punch.

...a cartoon in the Spectator.

2.10. Names of political institutions

The names of most political or government bodies and institutions have the definite article: the House of Commons, the House of Lords, the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Department of Trade and Industry, the State Department, the Cabinet.


It was defeated in the House of Commons on 13 December.

Look at the percentage of lawyers in the Senate.


This is true also of foreign institutions, translated or not: the Bundestag, the Dail, the Supreme Court, the Finance Ministry, the Ministry of the Interior, and so on.


...at a special meeting of the Bundestag.

...regular briefings by the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Ministry.


Exceptions to this are: Parliament (but the Houses of Parliament), Congress, and names of councils: Kent County Council, Leeds City Council.


...when I was elected to Parliament in 1964.

He attended Congress only nine times.


Names of locations and buildings that are used to refer metaphorically to political institutions stay as they are: Whitehall, Westminster, Downing Street, Washington, the Kremlin.


But the final decision may be made in the Kremlin.

2.11. Names of musical bands

Names of musical groups can have either no article or the definite article: Queen, the Beatles, Dire Straits, the Supremes, Fleetwood Mac. The choice of name depends on the group, and so it is possible to deliberately break ordinary rules of article usage for stylistic reasons. However, most plurals still have the definite article, for example: the Rolling Stones, the Shadows, the Eurythmics, the Doors.


In our own time the Rolling Stones have developed a similar reputation.

...the gigantic commercial success of the Beatles.

2.12. Personal names

The names of people usually have no article: John Smith, Mary Jones. This is true no matter how someone's name is given: Smith, J. Smith, John F. Smith, Mr Smith, Dr Smith, Dr J.F. Smith, Captain Smith, Lord Smith, and so on.


Margaret Thatcher is doing more than enough of that already.

...the victory of Mrs Thatcher in the 1979 election.

As the riots continued Thatcher came under pressure.


There are a number of situations where the definite article is necessary. It is used when you are referring to a family by making the name plural: the Wilsons, the Masons.


...and everyone will see how crude the Swansons really are.


You can stress the definite article with names of people to mean someone famous: 'I met Paul McCartney the other day.' 'You mean the Paul McCartney?'


...before I could assure her that I was not one of the Schuylers.


The definite article is used in certain titles: the Reverend John Collins, the Prince of Wales (but Prince Charles), the Duke of Westminster, the Countess of Harewood. It is also used in the descriptive names of some monarchs: William the Conqueror, Ivan the Terrible, Alfred the Great.


The indefinite article can be used with personal names, where it means something like 'a certain', or 'someone called...'.


...the librarian, a Mrs Willard.

I explained that a Mr George Cole, with whom I was currently acting, had damaged it.


The speaker or writer is suggesting that the reader or listener does not know the person.


The indefinite article can also be used with a family name to pick out one member.


If there were always an England there would always be a Rothermere.


2.13. Converting proper nouns

There are many cases where you can use the indefinite article, and by extension the definite article, with what appear to be proper nouns. In fact, what is happening is that these nouns are being used as common nouns instead of proper nouns, even though the capital letter remains. This is similar to the process of conversion. With converted proper nouns you can talk about particular instances using the definite or indefinite articles; the noun can also be plural.


There are a number of predictable ways in which you use. converted proper nouns. You use a converted proper noun:

• when you want to suggest that someone or something is similar to someone or something famous: 'She's a proper Shakespeare', 'the buying power of an IBM'.


He is the nearest we have to an English Leonardo da Vinci.

Your son could be another Einstein.


• when you are talking about a copy or instance of something, especially a newspaper or magazine: 'a Times' means 'a copy of the Times'.


He bought a Daily Gleaner and returned to his place.


• when you are referring to a product or a work by someone, for example a car produced by a particular manufacturer, or a painting by a famous painter.

The trip had taken two days in the shiny new Ford.

Would I recognise a Renoir?


Sometimes a trademark for a product is used for all products of the same kind. For example, many people would call any vacuum cleaner a 'Hoover', though 'Hoover' is a trademark for one particular make.


• when you want to talk about one branch of a shop or business.


...to make room for the new Woolworth's.


• when you want to pick out a particular 'version' of something: 'This isn't the London I used to know'.


...if there were always an England.



3.1. Combining articles with other determiners

Determiners include the articles, possessive determiners ('my, 'your', and so on), demonstratives ('this', 'that', 'these', 'those'), words indicating quantity ('all', 'some', 'few', 'several', 'many', and so on), and numbers ('one', 'two', and so on).


...a birthday lunch with my mother.

Many of these ideas are already being tested.

Some success had been achieved.


NOTE It is possible to have more than one determiner in a noun group, but there are many combinations which are not possible. In particular, you cannot combine the articles with possessive determiners ('my', 'your', and so on); you cannot say 'a my friend' or 'the my friend'.


However, you can say 'a friend of mine'. Possessive determiners already have the idea of uniqueness suggested by 'the', so it is wrong to use both together.


Gerhard is a friend of mine.


NOTE Words indicating quantity which cannot be combined directly with the definite article can be used as pronouns in front of'of and the definite article: 'some of the money'.


...to talk to some of the young people.

3.2. Combining determiners with the definite article

The definite article can have a determiner in front of it and after it.


Many people don't think of all the other things that can happen.


Determiners which can come in front of the definite article are 'all', 'both', 'half', multipliers like 'twice', 'double', 'three times' and so on, and fractions like 'two-thirds'. These are sometimes called predeterminers.


This will provide all the information you need.

...with the consent of both the establishments concerned.

...an area half the size of a football pitch.

...a house worth almost three times the price paid for the first house.

Give one-third the usual amount.


'All', 'both' and 'half' have alternatives with 'of', with little or no difference in meaning.


...conforming to all of the rules. (all the rules)

...and both of the MPs turned up. (both the MPs)

Half of the remainder will be divided. (half the remainder)


Don't forget that 'all' and 'both' can be used in front of a noun without the definite article.


The Social Democratic Party continues to see itself as all things to all people.

Both girls were attractive and intelligent.

A number of determiners can come after the definite article; here is a list of them.


few one little many other several


...the few letters he wrote to me at school.

...on the other hand.

...the one outfit I have never purchased.

...among the many difficult problems before him.

She was taken the several miles south to her home.


The definite article occurs in front of other numbers as well as 'one'.


...the role of local governments in the three countries.

...based on the difference between the two.

3.3. Combining determiners with the indefinite article

The indefinite article can have a determiner in front of it or after it. Determiners which can occur before the indefinite article are 'half', 'many', 'quite', 'rather', 'such' and 'what' (with an idea of exclamation).


...half a cup of cold coffee.

I've spent many a moonlit night here.

Countless numbers of workers are being faced with such a choice.

What a horrible idea!


The indefinite article can also occur in front of 'half' (which is then an adjective); compare these two sentences.


...cutting a half hour from prime time.

For half an hour the room was quiet.


But it is more common to put the indefinite article after 'half', especially in British English.


The only determiner which can follow the indefinite article as part of a noun group is 'other'; the combination is always written as one word: 'another'.


Would you like another pint?


Don't forget that the indefinite article is also found in numbers like 'a dozen', 'a hundred', 'a thousand', and so on.


3.4. ‘A few’ and ‘a little’

The two determiners 'a few' and 'a little' are regarded as one unit, not as combinations involving the indefinite article. This is because they don't behave like the indefinite article: 'a few' occurs with nouns in the plural, and 'a little' occurs with uncount nouns.


He stands for a few minutes on the porch.

It obviously takes a little time.

In addition, the difference in meaning between 'few' and 'a few' cannot be explained by the addition of the indefinite article. 'Few' emphasizes that there are only a small number of things; 'a few' just indicates that there are a small number of things.


There is clearly a difference between the determiner 'a little', as in 'We need a little luck', and a combination of the indefinite article and the adjective 'little' (= 'small'), as in 'a little girl'.


I used to go there when I was a little girl.


'A little' can also be an adverb meaning something like 'slightly'.


We must look a little more closely.

3.5. Word order with ‘so’, ‘how’, ‘too’, ‘as’, and ‘that’

Usually modifiers come after determiners, but when 'so', 'how', and 'too' are used with adjectives the indefinite article (if necessary) comes after.


Her legs, for so stout a woman, were thin.

Only something most unusual could have made so large a hole.

Now they could see how small a beast it was.

They know how long, how costly, and how heartbreaking a task it is.

But it's too good a job.

Politics is too important a matter to be left to experts.


'As' and 'that', when used with adjectives, have the same effect on word order: 'It's not that big a problem'. ('That' is informal here).


...Butcher, as inspirational a figure as Bryan Robson.


Instead of using 'so' and 'how' you can express the same idea with 'such' and 'what' using ordinary word order: 'such a stout woman', 'such a large hole', 'what a small beast', 'what a long, costly and heartbreaking task'.


3.6. Leaving out articles

There are a number of situations when it is possible or necessary to leave out articles in front of nouns or adjectives which normally would have them. This is not the same as having no article; it is usually possible to compare these examples with sentences where either a definite or an indefinite article is used.


Articles can be left out:

• when two nouns (or adjectives), both acting as head of a noun group, are joined together with 'and' or 'or'; the second head can be without its article. This happens with both the definit and the indefinite article.


They had enhanced the reliability and quality of radio reception.

...a coffee cup and saucer.

You can order traveller's cheques through a local bank or travel agent.


You don't have to leave out the second article; you can say 'a coffee cup and a saucer'. But if you do leave it out, the two nouns must be closely related in meaning; you couldn't say 'There was a matchbox and jacket on the table'.


• in language which has to be shortened for reasons of space, such as telegrams, instructions, notes and newspaper headlines; a telegram message like 'Send report immediately' would mean 'Send the report immediately' or 'Send a report immediately'. Here is a typical newspaper headline.


Ukraine divisions deepened by Party's failure to condemn coup.


This could be read as 'The divisions in (the) Ukraine have been deepened by the Party's failure to condemn the coup'. As you can see, it is not only articles which are left out in this way.


• when nouns referring to two contrasting people or things are joined by 'and'.


The independent allowances for husband and wife will both be available.

...the natural relationship betuieen father and son.

...as the distinctions between employer and employee are gradually eroded.

There was a pause, and doctor and patient looked steadily at each other across the quiet room.

...with little gardens between river and road.


Note that in this case both nouns have no article.


• in introductory phrases like 'Fact is...', 'Thing is...', 'Trouble is...', 'Truth is...'. These can all be matched to normal expressions beginning with the definite article: 'The fact is...' and so on.


Fact is, it's getting serious.


This use is informal and occurs mainly in spoken English.


• with count nouns which are being used to address a person or animal (sometimes called vocatives).


Good grief, man, what are you doing here?

3.7. Using the definite article with adjectives meaning ‘something…’

Although the head of a noun group is usually a noun, there are situations where an adjective can have this role; for example, the definite article is used in front of an adjective to mean something with that quality. The first example below means 'People asked him to do things which were impossible'.


People asked him the impossible.

Politics is the art of the possible.

It merely states the obvious.

...confused and afraid of the unknown.


The following adjectives are often used after the definite article in this way.


bizarre exotic impossible incredible inevitable new obvious old possible ridiculous sublime supernatural unbelievable unthinkable unexpected unknown unreal

3.8. Using the definite article with comparative adjectives and adverbs

The definite article is used with comparative adjectives and adverbs to indicate how a difference in something involves a difference in something else.


The simpler the motion or operation, the better the worker will perform it.

The more radical the change, the steeper the price.

The more the TUC came under attack, the stronger it grew.


There are some fixed expressions like: 'the more the merrier' (which usually means that you want as many people as possible), 'the sooner the better' (which means that you want something as soon as possible), and others where the second part is '...the better' (which mean that you want something with as much of a particular quality as possible).


What's one more when you already have five? The more the merrier.

I'd be deeply grateful if you'd let me know - the sooner the better, please.

A doctor is pleased to answer any question that he can, the easier, the better.


You can also use the definite article in front of one comparative adjective or adverb, especially after 'all', to emphasize that something will affect a situation.


You'll sleep the better for it.

We'll have him back here all the quicker if you co-operate with us.

His longing was all the more agonizing because he could speak of it to no-one.


Articles with certain word groups


1. Complete the sentences below using 'a', 'an', 'the', or - (no article) using these words. You will need to use some of the words more than once. The first one has been done for you.


newspaper papers phone post radio telephone television


1) If you go sailing you should listen to weather reports on the radio

2) Children spend too much time watching …………

3) The Times is …………with a long tradition.

4) Before the days of television, people used to listen to…………

5) Nowadays it's possible to buy…………which you can speak into without lifting the receiver.

6) We bought…………with a 21-inch screen.

7) This letter is for you; it came in…………thismorning.

8) I'll send you a letter; it's best not to talk about such things on…………

9) Don't believe everything you read in…………


2. In the sentences below, only one of the underlined noun groups is appropriate. Cross out the one that is wrong. The first one has been done for you.


1) A train/The train would be best; it leaves every hour.

2) Since they built the bridge no one uses a ferry/the ferry any more.

3) Next year you'll be able to go by hovercraft; they're starting a new service. It'll be much quicker than a boat/the boat.

4) You'll have no trouble getting home; a bus/the bus doesn't stop running till midnight.

5) There are many ways for tourists to get around London. If you don't mind travelling in tunnels, take an underground/the underground; if you like to see where you're going, sit on the top deck of a bus/the bus and if you're in a hurry, take a taxi/the taxi.


3. In the sentences below, only one of the underlined noun groups is appropriate. Cross out the one that is wrong. The first one has been done for you.


1) He was a supreme master of ballet/a ballet

2) She has returned to a theatre/the theatre after an absence of five years.

3) Our lives are dominated by television/a television.

4) This town is boring. What we need is a cinema/the cinema.

s) 'You're dressed up.' - 'Yes, we're going to opera/the opera.'

6) Film/The film is both a respected art form and a form of mass entertainment.

7) ‘What can we do tonight?’ – ‘Well, we could go to movies/the movies.’


4. In the sentences below, only one of the underlined noun groups is appropriate. Cross out the one that is wrong. The first one has been done for you.


1) Both of them found work in hospital/the hospital.

2) She could not imagine people going to church/the church looking so dull and unhappy.

3) The door was closed when I went to bed/the bed.

4) We drove to university/the university, opposite which was a temple.

5) Robert moved closer to the bed/bed.

6) People get sent to the prison/prison for that sort of thing.

7) How are we going to get from the church/church to the reception?

8) I wanted to go to university/the university but I wanted to be an actor more.

5. In some of the sentences below both noun groups are possible. In others only one is correct. Underline the ones that are correct. The first one, in which both noun groups are possible, has been done for you.


1) I`m thirsty; let`s go to a pub/the pub.

2) Nowadays a hairdresser's/the hairdresser's is a place where both men and women can have a haircut.

3) Don't forget, you're going to the doctor's/a doctor's today.

4) I need some stamps; where can I find a post office/the post office?

5) Our fear of the dentist's/a dentist's starts when we are children.

6) It's such a small village; you wouldn't expect it to have a pub/the pub.


6. In the sentences below, only one of the underlined noun groups is appropriate. Cross out the one that is wrong. The first one has been done for you.


1) Can you play a guitar/the guitar?

2) I once played a guitar/the guitar which had only five strings.

3) She started learning a piano/the piano at the age of five.

4) I've always had a flute/the flute, ever since I was a child.

5) I'm afraid a violin/the violin is an instrument I never mastered.


7. Complete these sentences, putting 'a', 'an', or 'the' and a noun in the spaces provided. The first one has been done for you.


1) Gorillas can only be found deep inside the jungle

2) Finland is…………that is famous for its lakes.

3) Lions are often called 'kings of…………' although in fact they live on…………

4) Camels have been called 'ships of…………'.

5) I prefer living in…………; it's quieter than the town.

6) When we were kids we loved the beach so we used to spend all our holidays at…………but now we prefer…………, especially the Alps.


8. Choose an appropriate noun group to complete the following sentences. The first one has been done for you.


1) Vietnam is to the south of China.

2) Scotland is to…………of England.

3) The Conservative Party is on …………, of British politics.

4) London is in…………of England.

5) …………is a term applied to Western Europe and North America.

6) In Britain, India and some other countries, you should drive on…………, but in most of the world people drive on…………


9. In the sentences below, only one of the underlined noun groups is appropriate. Cross out the one that is wrong. The first one has been done for you.


1) Lithuanian borders were set up in the spring/a spring .

2) In a summer/summer it's hot but in winter/a winter it's very cold.

3) During a day/the day it was very hectic but at the night/night it was desolate.

4) What are you doing after lunch on Tuesday/a Tuesday?

5) Past/The past is forgotten.

6) It was summer/a summer of intense heat.

7) Air force relief flights continue in morning/the morning.

8) I did a lot of work in Hamburg in the eighties/eighties.


10. In some of the sentences below both noun groups are possible. In others only one is correct. Underline the ones that are correct. The first one has been done for you.


1) Do you suffer from a malaria/malaria ?

2) I get fed up when I have a cold/cold because my nose goes bright red.

3) What is the best treatment for flu/the flu?

4) I took some aspirin for a headache/headache.

5) Leukaemia is cancer/a cancer of the blood.

6) Don't sit in a draught or you'll catch a chill/chill.

7) She developed stomach cancer/the stomach cancer a month after the marriage broke up.

8) I hope I haven't caught hepatitis/a hepatitis.


11. In the sentences below, only one of the underlined noun groups is appropriate. Cross out the one that is wrong. The first one has been done for you.


1) After a while, Maria came in, her hair/the hair freshly combed.

2) Bess kissed her on her cheek/the cheek.

3) The Baron leaned forward and looked her in the face/her face.

4) He put his hand/the hand on the shoulder/her shoulder.

5) She leaned close to him, resting her cheek/the cheek against his.

6) She slipped her arm/the arm under his and gave him a nudge.

7) The General had a pistol in the hand/his hand.

8) I kicked him hard on the leg/his leg.

9) He could have shot me in the foot/my foot.


12. Look at the sentences below. Decide whether you can leave out 'the' where it is underlined in each sentence, and put 'yes' or 'no' in the spaces provided. The first one has been done for you.


1) He became the chairman of the company yes

2) I was the manager for only six weeks before the company went bankrupt …………

3) Mrs Jacobs is the head of two departments…………

4) They made him the leader of the gang…………

5) I'm going to meet the director of the club…………

6) Mr J. Benn, the owner of the shop, made no comment…………

7) He's been the captain for the last six matches…………

8) They made the President sign the document …………

9) She was die Queen for only a hundred days …………

10) I was the best man at his wedding. …………


13. Complete these statements about English grammar, using 'the' and an appropriate grammatical term. The first one has been done for you.

1) The word 'the' is called the definite article.

2) 'Children' is…………of'child'.

3) 'Can' is………… in 'I can do it', but in 'I hate drinking lemonade from a can' it is…………

4) 'A' and 'an' are the two forms of…………

5) After 'news' you should use a verb in…………for example, 'the news is interesting'.

6) 'Sang' is…………of'sing', and 'sung' is…………


14. 1. Translate into English. Check the explanatory notes if you are not sure what article should be put or whether or not you should put any.


1. Она работает на телевидении. 2. По ящику не показывают ничего интересного уже неделю. 3. Его покажут по телику завтра! 4. Как часто ты слушаешь радио? 5. Не мешай мне. Я смотрю вечерние новости. 6. Она целыми днями разговаривает по телефону! 7. Они свяжутся с вами по телефону. 8. Я не читаю газет. 9. Пресса уже давно под контролем государства. 10. В эти дни газеты пишут только о войне в Ираке. 11. Часто в газете можно найти странные объявления. 12. Письмо будет отправлено почтой. 13. Она всю жизнь пользуется почтой и никогда не отправляет сообщения телеграфом или телефоном. 14. Этого актера часто показывают по телевизору. 15. Представители прессы прибыли на конференцию заранее.


15. Translate into English. Check the explanatory notes if you are not sure what article should be put or whether or not you should put any.


1. Она приезжает на работу на 6-часовой электричке. 2. Машина сломалась! 3. Мэр этого города ездит на работу и с работы на велосипеде. 4. Метро не работает с понедельника. 5. Президента доставят в столицу самолетом. 6. Паромная переправа работает с 8 до 6. 7. Вчера в метро я потеряла плеер. 8. Ты когда-нибудь катался на трамвае? 9. Если ты не возьмешь такси, ты опоздаешь на самолет. 10. Родители приезжают на поезде завтра. 11. Солдаты переплыли реку на судне на воздушной подушке. 12. Археологи добрались до джунглей вертолетом. 13. Мы отправляем груз морем. 14. Оборудование будет доставлено воздушным транспортом.


16. Translate into English. Check the explanatory notes if you are not sure what article should be put or whether or not you should put any.


1. Родители водят нас в кино трижды в месяц. 2. Она поет в театре с 1980. 3. Телевидение имеет свои плюсы и минусы. 4. Кино – мой любимый вид искусства. 5. Он достиг больших успехов в балете. 6. Вечером делегация едет в оперу. 7. На вечере будет много известных артистов театра и кино. 8. Жизнь – театр, а люди в нем – актеры. 9. Мой дедушка проработал в кинотеатре половину своей жизни. 10. Мы уже были в кино, театре, опере, на балете. Давайте сходим в цирк!


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