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Using Articles

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Using Articles
What is an article? Basically, an article is an adjective. Like adjectives, articles modify nouns.
English has two articles: the and a/an. The is used to refer to specific or particular nouns; a/an is used to modify non-specific or non-particular nouns. We call the the definite article and a/an the indefinite article.
the = definite article
a/an = indefinite article
For example, if I say, "Let's read the book," I mean a specific book.
If I say, "Let's read a book," I mean any book rather than a specific book.
Here's another way to explain it: The is used to refer to a specific or particular member of a group. For example, "I just saw the most popular movie of the year." There are many movies.
These places usually have names with the:
? hotels, restaurants, pubs: The Station Hotel, The Bombay Restaurant
? theatres, cinemas: The Odeon Cinema
? museums, galleries, other buildings: The British Museum, The White House
? newspapers: The Financial Times
? organisations: The European Community
Names with ...of... usually have the: the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament.
We use the when we are thinking of one particular thing. Compare a/am and the:
Tom sat down on a chair. (perhaps one of many chairs in the room)
but Tom sat down on the chair nearest the door. (a particular chair)
Ann is looking for a job. (not a particular job)
but Did Ann get the job she applied for? (a particular job)
Have you got a car? (not a particular car)
but I cleaned the car yesterday. (= my car)
The definite article is used before singular and plural nouns when the noun is particular or specific. The signals that the noun is definite, that it refers to a particular member of a group. Compare the indefinite and definite articles in the following examples:
Indefinite (a or an) Definite (the)
Singular a dog (any dog)an apple (any apple) the dog (that specific dog)the apple (that specific apple)
Plural some dogs (any dogs)some apples (any apples) the dogs (those specific dogs)the apples (those specific apples)

"The dog that bit me ran away." Here, we're talking about a specific dog, the dog that bit me.
"I was happy to see the policeman who saved my cat!" Here, we're talking about a particular policeman. Even if we don't know the policeman's name, it's still a particular policeman because it is the one who saved the cat.
"I saw the elephant at the zoo." Here, we're talking about a specific noun. Probably there is only one elephant at the zoo.
We use the adjective (without a noun) to talk about groups of people, especially: the young, the rich, the unemployed, the disabled, the poor.
Count and Noncount Nouns
The can be used with noncount nouns, or the article can be omitted entirely.
? "I love to sail over the water" (some specific body of water) or "I love to sail over water" (any water).
? "He spilled the milk all over the floor" (some specific milk, perhaps the milk you bought earlier that day) or "He spilled milk all over the floor" (any milk).
Geographical use of the
There are some specific rules for using the with geographical nouns.
Do not use the before:
? names of most countries/territories: Italy, Mexico, Bolivia; however, the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, the United States
? names of cities, towns, or states: Seoul, Manitoba, Miami
? names of streets: Washington Blvd., Main St.
? names of lakes and bays: Lake Titicaca, Lake Erie except with a group of lakes like the Great Lakes
? names of mountains: Mount Everest, Mount Fuji except with ranges of mountains like the Andes or the Rockies or unusual names like the Matterhorn
? names of continents (Asia, Europe)
? names of islands (Easter Island, Maui, Key West) except with island chains like the Aleutians, the Hebrides, or the Canary Islands
Do use the before:
? names of rivers, oceans and seas: the Nile, the Pacific
? points on the globe: the Equator, the North Pole
? geographical areas: the Middle East, the West
? deserts, forests, gulfs, and peninsulas: the Sahara, the Persian Gulf, the Black Forest, the Iberian Peninsula
We use the nationality: the Spanish, the Dutch, the British, the Irish, the Welsh.
Omission of Articles
Some common types of nouns that don't take an article are:
? Names of languages and nationalities: Chinese, English, Spanish, Russian
? Names of sports: volleyball, hockey, baseball
? Names of academic subjects: mathematics, biology, history, computer science
The is not used with noncountable nouns referring to something in a general sense:
[no article] Coffee is a popular drink.
[no article] Japanese was his native language.
[no article] Intelligence is difficult to quantify.
The is used with noncountable nouns that are made more specific by a limiting modifying phrase or clause:
The coffee in my cup is too hot to drink.
The Japanese he speaks is often heard in the countryside.
The intelligence of animals is variable but undeniable.
We use the when there is only one of something:
What is the longest river in the world? (there is only one longest river)
I?m going away at the end of this month.
The earth goes round the sun and the moon goes round the earth.
We use the before same (the same):
Your pullover is the same colour as mine.
These two photographs are the same.
Do use the before:
? names of rivers, oceans and seas (the Nile, the Pacific)
? points on the globe (the Equator, the North Pole)
? geographical areas (the Middle East, the West)
? deserts, forests, gulfs, and peninsulas (the Sahara, the Persian Gulf, the Black Forest, the Iberian Peninsula)
Do not use the before:
? names of countries (Italy, Mexico, Bolivia) except the Netherlands, the Philippines and the United States
? names of cities, towns, or states (Seoul, Manitoba, Miami)
? names of streets (Washington Blvd., Main St.)
? names of lakes and bays (Lake Titicaca, Lake Erie) except with a group of lakes like the Great Lakes
? names of mountains (Mount Everest, Mount Fuji) except with ranges of mountains like the Andes or the Rockies or unusual names like the Matterhorn
? names of continents (Asia, Europe)
? names of islands (Easter Island, Maui, Key West) except with island chains like the Aleutians, the Hebrides, or the Canary Islands
When we are talking about things and people in general, we do not use the:
Crime is a problem in most big cities.
Do you collect stamps?
Do you like Chinese food?

We say most people/ most books/ most cars (not the most)
Most people like George. (not the most people)

We do not use the before noun number:
? Our train leaves from Platform 5.
? Have you got these shoes in size 43?
? Room 126 (in a hotel), page 29 (of a book).

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