With countable nouns both, concrete and abstract. When the speaker uses the Indefinite article he just names an object which is usually new to the hearer. So the indefinite article is often used to introduce a new element in the sentence.
The table was covered with a white cloth.
Compare: I bought a book yesterday.
I bought the book yesterday.
Compare: ¬ комнату вбежал мальчик.
ћальчик вбежал в комнату. (stress plus word order)
With uncountable nouns the indefinite article serves to bring out a special aspect of the notion expressed by the noun. In this case the noun is usually qualified by an attribute.
e.g. A dull burning anger rose in his chest.
Ќе had almost a supernatural courage.
The Definite Article
When used with countable nouns, both concrete and abstract, the definite article has two distinct functions:
to denote a particular object, single out the object from all the other objects of the same class:
The car stopped. Paul got out and stretched himself.
Margot took up the telephone.
In the generic function. With nouns in the singular it serves to indicate that the noun becomes a composite image of the class.
The tiger is a carnivorous animal.
Absence of Article
With countable objects in the plural, uncountable nouns both abstract and concrete (names of materials).
e.g. I feel friendship and sympathy for Henry.
Life goes on.
The place smelt of dust.
Articles with countable nouns. General rules.
The choice of articles with countable nouns is determined by the context or the general situation. We should take into consideration attributes modifying the noun as they constitute part of the context. Attributes are divided into limiting and descriptive.
A limiting attribute makes the object distinct from the class of similar object.
e.g. ItТs the most unpleasant thing youТve ever told me.
Alice took the letter he held out to her.
A descriptive attribute is used to describe an object. It doesnТt single out an object but narrows the class to which it belongs.
e.g. He wrote a novel. He wrote A good historical novel.
It is only the context that defines if the adjective is a limiting or a descriptive one.
e.g. We shall take a road going through the forest as it wonТt be so hot there.
We shall take the road going through the forest as it is a short cut.
Attributes expressed by adjectives are usually descriptive. As such they do not affect the choice of articles.
e.g. She drove an old car. His office was in a fine, busy little street.
We lay lazily on the steep bank, looking at the tall reeds.
Pronouns ALL and WHOLE are to be treated as descriptive attributes.
e.g. He never stayed a whole evening with us.
The adjective pronoun SUCH is a descriptive attribute but is never followed by the definite article.
Adjectives in the superlative degree are always limiting attributes. But compare:
He is the most experienced doctor I know.
He is a most experienced doctor. (most is a degree adverb крайне, чрезвычайно)
Some adjectives and advective pronouns almost always serve as limiting attributes:
Right (правильный, тот), wrong (не тот), very, only, main, principal, central, left and write, same, coming, following, present, former (первый), latter (последний).
An only child is a set-phrase (единственный ребенок у родителей)
Nouns modified by next and last are generally used with the (the next table to him, the last pages), but when these adjectives modify nouns denoting time, coming or just past from the point of view of the speaker, no article is used (last week, next year).
In narration there is a fluctuation in the use of articles with nouns modified by next.
I met her at the station next day. She was arranging a time-table for the next day.
The other (второй из двух), another Ц из большего количества or еще один, любой другой, не такой.
Others, the others.
The other day Ц set-phrase на дн€х.
Countable nouns modified by numerals
Cardinal numerals serve as descriptive attributes. E.g.I have already declined three invitations. The two men didnТt break step.
Ordinal ones are limiting attr-tes. The second week in October.
However, when an ordinal numeral doesnТt denote order but acquire the meaning of Уone moreФ the indef. art. is used. He asked for a second cup of tea.
The third chapter but chapter 5.
Countable nouns modified by participles
Participle phrases may serve as either descriptive or limiting attributes according to the context:
e.g. He took a medicine prescribed by the doctor.
I adopted the tone used by my uncle Henry.
He sent a telegram saying he needed some work done urgently.
He couldnТt bear the thought of leaving her in such a state.
Countable nouns modified by infinitives
Attributes expressed with infinitives tend to be descriptive:
e.g. I made an attempt to smile/felt an impulse to laugh.
Yet, sometimes depending on the context, the infinitive may become a limiting attribute.
They didnТt have the money to buy the house.
Countable nouns modified by clauses
Clauses can be attributive and appositive. Attributive clauses qualify the noun. The can be either descriptive or limiting:
e.g. He took the cigarette that Robert offered him.
ItТs not a story I could tell anyone else.
She expected a husband who would give her love and position.
She stared at me with an expression that made me uncomfortable.
Appositive clauses disclose the meaning of a noun. They can modify only certain abstract nouns, such as idea, feeling, hope, thought, impression, sense and the like. Appositive causes are usually introduced with the conjunction that (что). Appositive clauses are usually limiting attributes:
e.g. He had the feeling that all his efforts were futile.
The idea that he can be of use made him happy.
I had the impression that she meant it.
The Use of the Definite Article with Countable Nouns
There are certain uses of the definite article which are to be regarded as a matter of tradition: 1) used by reason of locality, with reference to objects that surround the speaker (or things described by him). This usually refers to objects either indoors (the corner, the windowЕ) or outdoors (the stars, the street, the flowers, he houses, the birdsЕ)
e.g. As I approached our house I saw my mum waving from the window.
A bee buzzed in the flowers.
The trees swayed to and fro under the grey sky.
2) with nouns denoting objects that are usually found in a particular place (the attendant in the cinema, the waiter, the receptionist, the kettle (at home) etc.)
The generic function of the definite article
A singular countable noun with a definite article may represent a whole class of objects, thus becoming a composite image of that class.
e.g. The violet is a lovely flower (Indef, art. also possible). The aeroplane has made the world a small place.
Now the horse has been replaced by the tractor (Indef. Art. impossible).
If you mean УanyФ use the indefinite article.
E.g. A book makes a good present. A passenger is allowed is allowed 10 kg. of hand luggage free of charge.
Note that a plural noun in a generic sense has no article. e.g. Violets are lovely flowers.
Note! When the noun man is used in the generic sense it has no article. The noun woman in a generic sense may be used with the definite or without any article.
The definite article is always found with collective nouns denoting social groups or classes: the peasantry, the aristocracy, the clergy, the intelligentsia, the public, the police.
The definite article is used with the generic plurals but it is found only when the idea of collectivity is emphasized, suggesting Уthe whole body ofФ: the Russians, the Italians, the Germans etc., the workers, the peasants, the aristocrats, the catholics, the liberals etc.
Note that there is no article when not the whole nation or class is meant but separate representatives.
The same generic use of the definite article is found with substantivized adjectives (the blind, the poor, the rich, the young, the old, the British, the English, the Japanese).
Note! Adjectives followed by ones may have generic force and then they are used with the definite article.
e.g. The little ones always know a good man from a bad one.
It isnТt the pretty ones that become good wives and mothers.
The Use of Articles with Countable Nouns in some Syntactic Patterns
1. As a rule, nouns used predicatively or in apposition take the indefinite article. It is used here in its nominating function. Nouns in the plural have no article.
e.g. All my friends are students.
My friends, all students then, often discussed the war.
He is an extremely boring fellow.
2. The definite article in such a case serves to indicate the reference to a definite object or person. It usually has a limiting attribute.
e.g. Jack, the most impudent person there, interrupted me.
The noun in apposition is used with the definite article if the speaker takes in for granted that the listener knows the person in question.
e.g. Mr. Johnson, the editor, wants to see you.
3. Nouns used predicatively or in apposition may have no article. This is found in the following cases:
a) when they denote a position (rank, state, post or occupation) which is unique.
E.g. W. Carl Johnson, Superintendent of the School, received me in his office.
The definite article may also be found in such cases.
b) when they denote a relationship and stress is laid on social position of the person
e.g. Mrs Nelson was wife of the manager of the firm. ( similar nouns: heir, daughter, son etc.)
But usually we find the definite article here.
Note! The use of the nouns son and daughter
e.g. She is the daughter of a doctor. (the common variant, expressing mere relationship)
She is a daughter of a doctor. (the idea that doctor has more than one daughter is emphasized)
She is daughter of a doctor. (describes the social position)
When nouns used predicatively denote a certain characteristic of the person and are followed with enough no article is used. E.g. He isn/t fool enough to believe such a thing.
Mind the following constructions used in the literary style:
Child though she was, she had suffered much. Boy as he was, he was chosen their leader.
The rules given for the use of articles with predicative nouns and nouns in apposition hold good for nouns introduced by as:
e.g. I regarded my uncle as a terrible tyrant. He went to the conference as (the) head of the delegation.
Note that these rules do not concern nouns introduced by as used for comparison.
e.g. You were as white as the sheet in your hands.
When nouns denoting titles, military ranks or social standing are followed by a proper name they are used without any article: Colonel Holmes, Doctor Smith, President Obama, Prime Minister Forbes, Queen Elizabeth, King George, Sir William, Lady Macbeth.
But: The doctor has come. The Prime Minister made an announcement yesterday.
The late professor Smith, the celebrated playwright Osborne.
Note! A foreign title followed by a proper name is used with the definite article: The Emperor Napoleon III, the Tsar Peter the Great/
The article is not used with some nouns denoting close relationship when they are followed by names of persons: Aunt Polly, Cousin John.
Other common nouns followed by proper names are used with the definite article, as in the boy Dick, the student Smith, the painter Turner, the composer Britten, the witness Manning etc., the planet Mars, the verb to be etc.
The article is not used with nouns in appositive of-phrases when the head-noun denotes a title or a post.
e.g. They nominated candidates for the posts of President and Vice-President. He got the degree of Master of Arts. The position of schoolmaster carries with it a sense of responsibility.
The article is not used in the adverbial pattern fromЕ to: from street to street, from town to town.
Set phrases: from head to foot, from top to bottom, from beginning to end etc., hand in hand, arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, day by day etc. Be always alert to set-phrases!
There is no article with nouns in direct address.
After the exclamatory what we find the indefinite article with singular nouns. E.g. What a car!
No article is used after the interrogative what: What question did you want to ask me?
The definite article is found with an of-phrase preceded by: one, some, any, several, the first, the last, the rest, the majority: one of the letters, several of the boys.
There is a fluctuation in the use of articles in the following types of combinations: a sort of (a) man, a kind of (a) man, a type of (a) man.
The Use of Articles with Uncountable Abstract Nouns
Among abstract countable nouns we find: answer, belief, conclusion, doubt, effort, government, holiday, idea, job, lie, mistake, opinion, plan, principle, promise, question, reply, sentence, visit etc.
Abstract uncountable nouns: anger, beauty, curiosity, freedom, love, modesty etc.
Some abstract nouns are used as countables in one meaning and uncountables in another:
The following nouns function both as count. and uncount. without any change in the meaning: chance, change, difficulty, language, profit, reason, temptation, torture, trouble, war.
The following nouns are uncountable but in the following two constructions they are used with the indefinite article: comfort, disgrace, disappointment, pity, pleasure, relief, shame and some others.
It is a pleasure to see you.
What a pity!
But: IТll do it with pleasure.
As a general rule uncountable abstract nouns are used without any article.
The definite article is used when the noun is modified by a limiting attribute or limitation comes from the context.
The definite article is also found with substantivized adjectives denoting abstract notions: the ordinary, the beautiful, the unusual, the supernatural etc.
E.g. Do you believe in the supernatural?
The indefinite article is used with uncountable abstract nouns when they are modified by a descriptive attribute which brings out a special aspect of the notion expressed by the noun (aspective function of the article).
e.g. A dull anger rose in his chest.
There was a tenderness in his voice that moved her.
I felt a certain impatience.
He had a patience which amazed his friends.
Sometimes an uncountable abstract noun is used with an attribute and yet has no article. It can be explained by the nature of the attribute or the nature of the noun:
a) In some cases attributes do not bring out a special aspect of the notion expressed by the noun. The attribute can express degree (great, perfect, sufficient, huge, tremendous, utter, complete, major etc.), quality of the noun from the point of view of time (modern, ancient, inpending, eternal, daily, contemporary, further, final, original), nationality (English etc/), geography (Moscow, world etc.), authenticity (genuine, authentic, symbolic etc.) or give social characteristic (capitalist, racial, religious etc.). e.g I have perfect confidence in him. She had great experience in her work. They talked about modern poetry.
b) Some nouns are never used with the indefinite article: admiration, advice, applause, approval, assistance, concern, encirclement, guidance, information, permission, progress, recognition, research, torture, trade, work, change (сдача), fun, health, luck, money, news, (outer) space, weather and some others.
All the above-mentioned nouns can be used with the definite article.
Note! The noun УwindФ is uncountable. E.g. There isnТt much wind today. Yet it is regularly used with the definite article. E.g. He ran like the wind. But if it is modified by a descriptive attribute it is used with the aspective indefinite article. E.g. A cold wind was blowing from the north. The cold winds blew the leaves off the trees (plural for stylistic purposes).
Notice the sentence patterns with the word life.
e.g. Life goes on. They began a new life. The life he is leading now causes distress.
Sometimes the use of articles with uncountable abstract nouns is affected by the syntactic function of the noun.
Nouns in attributive and adverbial prepositional phrases of manner have no article even if they have a descriptive attribute. Such phrases are usually introduced with the prepositions of, with, in.
e.g. His face bore a look of cold disapproval.
He had hunger for knowledge. Е a feeling of sharp anticipation, to look with curiosity/in annoyance, with intense interest, with great care.
Occasionally, the definite or the indefinite article may be found in prepositional phrases: e.g. May I speak to you in the strictest confidence?
The use of the indefinite article here is optional and depends solely on the desire of the speaker to lay a stress on a special aspect expressed by the attribute: e.g. He looked at her face and saw the distorting lines of a deep and anxious weariness.
But!!! When we have certain and perculiar the indefinite article is obligatory. E.g. with a certain impatience, with a peculiar intimacy.
Uncountable abstract nouns in the function of a predicative are used without any article even if they are characterized by a descriptive attribute:
e.g. It was pure happiness. This was not just ordinary anxiety.
The use of Articles with Uncountable Concrete Nouns (Names of Materials)
They are generally used without any article even if they are modified by a descriptive attribute.
e.g. socks of thick grey wool
The definite article can be used depending on the context. E.g. The boss took a pen and picked a fly out of the ink.
Sometimes, owing to a change of meaning, names of materials become countable.
a) when various sorts of materials and food products are meant: teas, cheeses.
b) When a portion is meant: e.g. A salad and two coffees, please.
c) A tin of sardines Ц банка сардин, a glass of juice Ц стакан сока.
THE INDEFINITE ARTICLE
The indefinite article a/an is used with singular countable nouns.
1. The indefinite article a/an is used the first time a speaker mentions a noun: For lunch I had a sandwich and an apple.
2. A/an is also used in sentences beginning with "there is": There is a newspaper on the table.
3. The indefinite article preserves its old original meaning of "one" with nouns denoting time, weight, measure and with numerals "hundred, thousand, million": A week or two passed. My new car cost a thousand pounds. The butter is three dollars a kilo.
4. You can use a/an to state that the object denoted by the noun belongs to a certain class: Tom is a very nice person. Jack has got a big nose.
5. You can use a/an with the noun used in the general sense. The article has the meaning of "every": A good dog deserves a good bone.
6. A/an is used before singular countable nouns in exclamatory sentences and after such, quite and rather: What a lovely day today! It's such an interesting idea, isn't it?