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The use of the Articles with Class Nouns The Indefinite Article



Article is a secondary part of speech, which serves as a noun determiner (besides such determiners as demonstrative, possessive and indefinite pronouns). There are three articles in modem English: indefinite, definite & zero.

The indefinite article originated from the old English numeral an (one). That is why it is used only with countable nouns in the singular. The article has two forms:

1) a (before the nouns beginning with consonant sounds) e.g.: a cat, a man, a bed.

2) an (before the nouns beginning with vowel sounds) e.g.: an apple, an end, an hour.

The definite article has developed from the old English demonstrative pronoun se (in the meaning of that). This article is pronounced:

1) as [Dq] before consonant sounds e.g.: the cat, the table, the man, the unit.

2) as [DJ] before vowel sounds e.g.: the end, the apple, the hour.


The use of the Articles with Class Nouns The Indefinite Article


The main functions of the indefinite article are classifying, generalizing and numerical.

1. The indefinite article is used in the classifying function:


a) to refer an object to the class of objects of the same kind.

The indefinite article in this case has the meaning of ‘some’ ‘any’:

e.g. I see a table, a chair and a shelf in the room.


In the plural no article is used in this case. The pronoun ‘some’ can be used instead.

e.g. I see (some) chairs in the room.


b) with predicative nouns in the singular:

My father was a captain.

In the plural no article is used. ‘Some’ is not used either:

They are nice people.


c) with nouns modified by a descriptive attribute, which is used to give some additional information about the object:

A pear-white moon smiles through green trees.

I saw a tall good-looking man.


2. The indefinite article is used in the generalizing function with the noun in the general sense, when the article has the meaning of ‘every’, ‘any example of the same kind’, ‘all examples of the same kind’:

e.g. A (every) cat is a domestic animal.

What is a dictionary? – A dictionary is a book which tells you about the meanings of words.

In the plural no article is used:

Cats are domestic animals.

3. The indefinite article is used in the numerical function when it retains its original meaning of the cardinal numeral ‘one’:

a) with nouns, denoting time, measure, weight:

e.g. A week or two passed.

Just a minute.


b) with the nouns ‘hundred’, ‘thousand’, ‘million’, ‘dozen’, ‘score’:

A hundred or so men were sitting round the fire.

He bought a dozen ties.

c) when the indefinite article means ‘per’ or ‘every’:

once a day

twice a week

six times a month

e.g. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

4. The indefinite article is also used:

a) before the words of indefinite quantity:

a bit (of)

a few (of)

a little (of)

a (large) quantity (of)

a (great/good) deal (of)

a (good/great) many

a (considerable) number (of)

a lot (of)

e.g. A few of the plates were chipped.

A lot of parents attended the meeting.

The storm has damaged a large number of buildings.

b) when the determiners ‘what’, ‘such’, ‘many’ ‘quite’, ‘rather’ are used with a noun. In this case the indefinite article follows the determiner:

What a noise!

She was such a kind person.

Many a man died in the battle (formal archaic)

We had quite a busy day.

But: We had rather a busy day / We had a rather busy day.


c) in the structures of the type “have a look” (have a bite, have a smoke, cast a glance, etc.)


Mind that there is no article before a noun after the expressions a kind of, a sort of, a type of, even if it is countable:

He lived in a kind of tent.

A Jaguar is a type of car.


The Definite Article

The main functions of the indefinite article are specifying and generic.

1) The definite article is used in a specifying function when the noun denotes an object or objects singled out from all the objects of a given class. This takes place when:


a) the situation itself makes the object definite (the speaker & the hearer know what object is meant):

e.g. How did you like the play?

The wedding was strange. The bride was too old and the bridegroom was too young.

b) the context makes the object definite (the noun was already mentioned before):

Three little kittens lost their mittens…

The three little kittens they found their mittens.


c) the noun is modified by a limiting (restrictive) attribute which is used to single out an object from all the objects of a given class. It can be expressed by:

· a prepositional phrase (e.g. an "of-phrase")

e.g. This is the mother of those children

· an attributive clause in post-position:

e.g. This is the house that Jack built.

She sat down & accepted the cigarette he offered her.

· by the pronoun ‘same’ and adjectives ‘wrong’, ‘right’, ‘left’, ‘opposite’, ‘very’, ‘only’, ‘main’, ‘central’, ‘principal’, ‘former’, ‘latter’, ‘following’, ‘coming’, ‘next’, ‘last’, ‘present’.

Remember the following rhyme:

very, only, coming, next,

right and wrong, last, latter, left,

central, principal, following, main,

former, present, opposite, same.

e.g. Sorry, I’ve dialed the wrong number.

Which is the right way to Times Square?

You are the very man I want to talk to.

· by ordinal numerals

e.g. The second performance was a sensational success.

· by the adjectives in the superlative degree: e.g. She is the best pupil in the class.


d) when the noun denotes a thing unique: the sun, the moon, the sky, the Universe, the atmosphere, the world, the earth, the ground, the horizon, the Cosmos, the equator, the globe, the Milky Way.


2) The definite article is used in the generic function when a noun denotes a genus taken as a whole, a thing as a type, a genre.

The generic article is used with:

a) collective nouns, denoting social groups or classes: the aristocracy, the gentry, the clergy, the police.

b) animals, plants

The tiger has always had the reputation of being a man-eater.


c) the nouns man, woman, child

Note. When the noun ‘man’ is used in the generic sense, no article is used with it.

e.g. He suffered everything that man can endure.

The noun ‘woman’ is used in a generic sense either with the definite article or without it.

e.g. Woman is man’s helpmate.


d) scientific terms (genres, inventions)

e.g. The telephone was invented in the 19th century.

e) with substantivized adjectives or participles

Fortune favours the brave.

One law for the rich, another for the poor.

The dying must be left in peace.

· This group also includes some adjectives denoting nationalities: The British, the French, the Chinese, the Japanese etc.


Compare the noun used in the generic sense with the noun used in the general sense.

A noun used in the generic sense: A noun used in the general sense:
denotes a whole class of objects, a symbol of a class (not its typical representatives).   It’s a higher degree of abstraction, generalization (generic – ðîäîâîé, îáùèé). In this case the definite article is used with a noun:   e.g. Conan Doyle is a master of the detective story. The horse has been replaced by the tractor. denotes an object regarded as an individual representative of a class (any typical representative of a class).   In this case the indefinite article is used with a noun:   e.g. A detective story helps to while away the time.


3) Mind the use of the definite article with nouns in word groups some of, any of, each of, all of, one of, none of, many of, most of:

e.g. Most of the pupils were present.


Date: 2015-01-11; view: 2464

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