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The Use of Articles with Abstract Nouns

Abstract nouns fall into two classes: countables and uncountables.

The use of articles with countable abstract nouns does not differ from their use with countable concrete nouns in the singular countable abstract nouns are used with the indefinite or definite article; in the plural they are used without any article or with the definite article.

He told the child a story.

He told the child stories.

The child knew the story he told.

The child knew the stories he told.


The use of articles with uncountable abstract nouns

1. As a general rule, uncountable abstract nouns are used without any article. The absence of the article has the nominating meaning.

Indifference and pride look very much alike, and he probably thought I was proud.

I knew that generosity would have been wasted on him.


2. The definite article is used with uncountable nouns when they are modified by a particularizing attribute or when the situation makes the idea definite. The definite article is used here to denote a particular instance of the notion expressed by the noun. In this case the meaning of the article is restricting.

He was in a state of the greatest excitement.

They were surprised at the curious silence into which he had fallen.

It was very still in the house. Suddenly a faint sound could be heard in the stillness.

3. The definite article is also found with substantivized adjectives denoting abstract notions: the ordinary, the average, the beautiful, the unusual, the supernatural, the extravagant, the unknown, the regrettable, the normal, the grotesque, the unbearable, etc.

"You shouldn't think you're something out of the ordinary, "she said.

"Do you believe in the supernatural?" he asked.

To this group also belong nouns always used with the definite article as the present, the past, the future, the singular, the plural:

He is certain nothing will happen in the near future.

He told strange stories of the past.

Note. Mark the difference in meaning between the expressions in future (), i.e. from this time on, and in the future ( ), i.e. after a certain period of time passes. A future is possible when this noun is the focus of communication.

I hope in future youll be more careful.

Everybody knew an enviable position awaited him in the future.

It was an uncertain future, but she had nobody else to turn to for help.


4. Abstract nouns can be used with the indefinite article. In this case the abstract noun denotes a certain kind () of a quality, feeling, state, etc. The noun nearly always has a descriptive attribute. The meaning of the indefinite article is called aspective.

A dull anger rose in his chest.

There seemed to be a wonderful excitement everywhere in the world.

There was a tenderness in his voice that moved her.

After a time a loneliness fell upon the two men.

There was a bitterness in her voice.

"A loneliness" means "a certain loneliness" and "a bitterness" means "a certain bitterness" here.


5. Sometimes an uncountable abstract noun is used with an attribute and yet has no article. In some cases the attribute does not bring out a special aspect of the notion expressed by the noun. The attribute may express

degree or extent (great, perfect, sufficient, huge, tremendous, immense, sheer, utter, complete, infinite, endless, major and some others ): immense joy, sheer foolishness

time and historical periods (modern, ancient, impending, eternal, daily, contemporary, further, final, original): modern art, further discussion, ancient history

nationality (English, French, etc.): Italian music, French poetry

position or locality (London, world ,outside, inner, local, internal, etc.): inner vision, inside information

authenticity or reliability (real, genuine, authentic, symbolic, true, solid, false and some others): real freedom, true friendship

social characteristic (Soviet, bourgeois, capitalist, racial, religious, etc.): racial segregation, feudal law

genres or trends in art (dramatic, theatrical, classical, romantic, detective, etc.): romantic prose, detective literature

mans social and spiritual life (social, public, political, intellectual, spiritual, moral, mental, reasonable, personal, etc.): public recognition, human philosophy

mans manner or behaviour (polite, formal, nervous, serious, etc.): nervous attitude, formal behaviour

recurrent or going on without stopping phenomena (continual, continuous, constant, incessant, etc.): incessant talk, constant displeasure

there are also some other adjectives of different meaning (good, bad, free, critical, ordinary, plain, human, etc.): ordinary honesty, human psychology

As these attributes do not express a special aspect, the nouns modified by them are used without any article.

I have perfect confidence in him.

She has great experience in her work.

I'm sure your work will give you complete satisfaction.

They talked about modern poetry.

It's three o'clock by Kyiv time.

Ron was particularly interested in ancient sculpture.

Note. But the definite article is used with the combinations French poetry, modern art, American literature, German philosophy if there is a descriptive attribute, as in the French poetry of the 19-th century.


6. Some nouns are never used with the indefinite article. They are nouns of verbal character denoting actions, activity, and process, such as advice, assistance, admiration, guidance, permission, progress, recognition, research, torture, work, information, approval, concern, trade () and some others.

This rule applies also to the following nouns: weather, money, news, luck, fun, nature, health, nonsense, evidence, bliss, breeding, cunning and some others.

I am not sure whether it is good news or bad.

He was anxiously waiting for permission to begin his experiment.

As I knew, Mr. March always expressed gloomy concern if one of his children had a sore throat.

He felt honest admiration for his colleague.

She was making great progress.

They promised Jackson further assistance.

Note. Although the above mentioned nouns are never used with the indefinite article, they can be used with the definite article.

He told me of the progress he was making.

The news was so upsetting that she said she would not see anyone that night.

What is the weather like today?


7. The nouns pity, shame, disgrace, pleasure, relief, comfort, disappointment are always used with the indefinite article in the following constructions:

in sentences with the formal it as subject when they are used as predicative of the main clause: Its a pity. Its a shame.

in exclamatory sentences after what: What a disgrace!



Date: 2015-01-11; view: 14568

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