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ARTICLES IN GRAMMAR : Indefinite Article : Definite Article : When to omit the definite article

What are English Articles? —
Definite and Indefinite Articles

Definite and Indefinite ArticlesWe refer to the two adjectives a (or an) and the as articles in grammar.

The is called the definite article because it refers to a particular person or thing in the sentence.

EX.— The woman walks.
EX.— The girls play.
EX.— The dog runs.

In these sentences we refer to a particular woman, girl, and dog with a definite article. The definite article is used both with singular and plural forms of the noun.

The indefinite article a (or an) indicates any one of the things for which the noun stands.

EX.— A girl, a car, a computer, a hawk, a pencil, a tent.

A is used before words beginning with a consonant sound, including h, a long u or eu, and before one, once.

EX.— a house, a car, a historical fact, a beer, a long passage, such a one, a once popular singer.

EX.— An hour, an instant, an order, an apple, an urgent request, an evening, an honest person.

NOTE— An is used before words beginning with a vowel sound. , e.g., an eye, an eagle, an oyster, an envelope.

NOTE— The article an or a, meaning one, refers to an adjective of quantity.

NOTE— In such expressions as "to go a hunting,"a is not an article, but a preposition.

NOTE— You use the indefinite article only with the singular forms of nouns.

EX.— A man jumps. This means that one man or any man jumps, but not all or several men jump.

Proper Use of the Definite Article

1) The is called the definite article because it is used to point out objects definitely.

EX.— The realtor and builder stopped at my house.
EX.— The realtor and the builder stopped at my house.

In the first sentence the realtor and builder are the same person. In the second sentence the realtor is one person and the builder is a different person.

2) When you assign two or more words to the same person or thing, you use the definite article before the first only; but when you assign the words to different persons or things, you should repeat the article before each.

EX.— The first and the second teenager in the line.

EX.— The first and second teenager in the line.

3) When two or more adjectives do not describe the same thing, you repeat the definite article before each if the noun is singular; but it is used with the first only if the noun is plural.

NOTE— In such expressions as, "The more you study, the more you learn," the is not an article, but an adverb.

4) Use the when you refer to a particular thing, which you want to distinguish from similar things.

EX.— The book which I am reading is interesting.
EX.— The garden is near the house.
EX.— The houses of Cairo are high.
EX.— The cotton of Egypt is of good quality.

5) We use the whenever it is possible to answer the question "What?"; for example, when we say: "The garden is near the house," we need to answer the question, "What garden? What house?"

6) Use the when a noun is used in the singular to mean all things of the same kind.

Ex. The palm tree is useful ( all palm trees are useful). The horse is useful ( all horses are useful).

7) Use the before adjectives used as nouns in a plural sense.

EX.— The poor, the sick, the rich

8) Use the before such proper nouns that consist of an adjective and a noun.

EX.— The North Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Oxford
School, the United States.

When to Omit the Definite Article

Omit the is the following cases:

1) When speaking of anything used in a general sense, and regarded as having an indefinite quantity.

EX.— Water is necessary to plants.

EX.— Gold is more valuable than dirt.

(In the above two examples, we cannot answer the question: What water? What gold?).

EX.— Cotton is exported from South Carolina. (Compare: The cotton of South Carolina is good. Here we can answer the question: What cotton?)

EX.— Bricks are made of clay.
EX.— Generosity is a great virtue.

2) Omit the when a noun is used in a general sense in the plural.

EX.— Apple trees are plentiful. (Compare: The apple tree is plentiful. Here we can answer the question: What apple tree?)

EX.— Ships are built at the harbor.
EX.— Clothes are needed in cold climates.

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ARTICLES IN GRAMMAR : Indefinite Article : Definite Article : When to omit the definite article

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