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The Use of the Indefinite Article with Class Nouns

Class nouns are used with the indefinite article:

1. When the speaker mentions a noun (which is countable) for the first time:

For lunch I had a sandwich and an apple.

It is also used in sentences beginning with there is/was:

There is a newspaper on the table.


2. When the speaker presents the object expressed by the noun as belonging to a certain class. In this case the indefinite article has the meaning of -, , (in the meaning of '').

A lady is calling you up, sir.

This is the nominating meaning as we give a name to an object we have in mind:

A man and a woman sat opposite us, but they did not talk.

We saw a house with a lawn in front of it.

When we want to emphasize that we cant say exactly which person or thing we are talking about because we dont know or cant remember, we can use some instead of a/an with a singular noun:

I was asked a really difficult question by some student.

In the plural no article is used in this case. But if the idea of number is implied in the case of the nominating meaning plural nouns may be preceded by words like some, several, a few or by a numeral:

Two (some) men and two (a few) women sat opposite us

I liked the room because there were flowers in it.

"I have brought you some flowers..."

We sometimes use some or zero article with very little difference in meaning:

Where were you last week? I was visiting (some) friends. (It makes no difference whether we are referring to particular friends (with some) or friends in general (with zero article))


3. With a predicative noun, when the speaker states that the object denoted by the noun belongs to a certain class (it is one of a class and has the meaning of )

Miss Sharp's father was an artist.

My husband is a sailor.

Tom is a very nice person.

This may be called the classifying meaning:

Her brother was a student at Balliol College.

His aunt, a woman of uncertain age, was also present at the ceremony.

In the plural neither the article nor the pronoun some is used.

Her brothers were students at Balliol College.

They are good children, no doubt.

After the conjunction as a predicative noun is often used without an article.

She was engaged as governess.

4. When the noun is used in a general sense. What is said of one representative of a class can be applied to all the representatives of the class. The article has the meaning of 'every'.

A good dog deserves a good bone.

A drowning man catches at a straw.

An actor must learn to live with criticism.

This is the generalizing meaning the indefinite article. It indicates that the following noun denotes a typical member of a class:

A cat is a domestic animal. (= Every cat is a domestic animal.)

A tiger is dangerous. (= Every tiger is dangerous.)

Plural nouns in the generalizing meaning are used without any articles:

Cats are domestic animals. Tigers are dangerous.

This use is common in explanations of meanings and in some dictionary definitions.

In grammar, a noun is a word which is used to refer to a person, a thing, or an abstract idea.

Note 1: You cannot use this pattern when you want to talk about the location or existence of a type of animal, thing or person; for example, you cannot say: A ring-tailed lemur lives in Madagascar; you would have to say Ring-tailed lemurs live in Madagascar.

Note 2: Any sometimes has a similar but more emphatic meaning.

The greatest threat to any actor is the presumption that knowledge can be automatically transposed into experience.


5. There are cases when the indefinite article preserves its old original meaning of 'one'.

He had hardly spoken a word.

In such cases we can speak of the numeric meaning of the indefinite article:

An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening.

This meaning is generally found with:

nouns denoting time, measure and weight:

A week or two passed.

"I'll overtake you in a minute," said Godfrey.

in certain expressions of quantity:

a lot of, a couple, a great many, etc.

in the pattern aof with possessives, as in:

Shes a colleague of mine.

Thats a friend of Bills

after a negative not:

not a word, not a thought, etc.

in some set-phrases: one at a time, at a draught

the numerals hundred, thousand, million and the nouns dozen, score.

My new car cost a thousand pounds.

in expressions of price, speed, ratio etc.:

5p a kilo 10p a dozen four times a day 60 kilometers an hour (a, an = per)

Sometimes we can use either a/an or one:

Well be in Australia for one (or a) year.

Wait here for one (or a) minute, and Ill be with you.

Using one gives a little more emphasis to the number. However, we use one rather than a/an if we want to emphasize that we are talking about only one person or thing rather than two or more:

Do you want one sandwich or more?

Are you staying just one night?

With nouns in the plural some is used.

Oliver's sobs checked his utterance for some minutes.

Note1: We use one, not a/an in the pattern oneother/ another:

Close one eye, and then the other.

Bees carry pollen from one plant to another.

Note2: We use one with the words day, week, month, year, night, winter, etc. or with specific day or month to say when something happened usually in narration to mean a particular, but unspecified day, evening, winter, etc.:

One summer, the family decided to go to the Crimea.

We can use one day to refer to the future.

One day, you will regret this.


6. Before singular, countable nouns after such and in exclamations after what.

What a lovely day today!

Its such an interesting idea, isnt it?

But What pretty girls!


7. Nouns with the indefinite article are used after quite and rather.

Its quite a long story and not a nice one.

He was rather a curious man to look at.

Sometimes quite and rather can be placed after the indefinite article (especially in AmE)

He is a rather clever man.

Its a quite important problem.


8. Nouns with the indefinite article follow many) the verb is used in the singular)

Many a true word is spoken in jest.

Many an evening he sat staring at the fire.

9. So, as, too, how, however followed by an adjective precede nouns with the indefinite article:

Youth lasts so short a time.

You have too modest an opinion of yourself.

I cant miss the chance, however big a risk to run.

How honest a man is he?


10. The indefinite article is also used in various descriptions:

Hes got a long face and a turned up nose.


Date: 2015-01-11; view: 3873

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