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Unit 1: Sentence fragmentsUnit 2: Run-on sentences Unit 3: Subject-verb agreementUnit 4: TensesUnit 5: PassiveUnit 6: ApostrophesUnit 7: Articles

Summary: Articles

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Try not to get lost in the rules. Use a limited number of concepts to help you make sense of how to use the definite article (the) and the indefinite article (a/an), and when to use no article at all.

Definite = I think you know which 'X' I’m talking about.

Indefinite = I don’t think you know which 'X' I mean.

With the definite article the, use the following concepts:

  • uniqueness – using the to refer to something there is only one of (e.g. the moon) except when using proper nouns; most proper nouns don’t take the (e.g. Russia, Bruce).
  • reference – using the to refer to something that is evident elsewhere in the text or in the context (e.g. 'Look at the blackboard').
  • particularity – using the to refer to a particular instance of something and give enough information so that the reader knows which one you mean (e.g. ‘the diagram below’).
  • category/class/type (I’m not talking about a specific 'X' but I use the X to represent an entire category, class or type):
    • using the with a noun to mean every member of that category, class or type, e.g. ‘The nocturnal behaviour of the owl is similar to that of the cat’.
    • using the in front of an adjective used to substitute for a noun to mean every member of that category, class or type (e.g. the underprivileged).

With the indefinite article a/an, use the following concepts:

  • use a/an before just one 'X' whenever it is indefinite (I don't think you know which 'X' I mean). This often happens when we refer to 'X' for the first time - first reference (e.g. ‘There’s a bear in there’).
  • plural nouns and non-count nouns – never use the indefinite article a/an.

Use the following concepts to help you know when to use no article at all:

  • plural nouns (e.g. apples, words) and non-count nouns (e.g. food, language) that are non-specific (i.e. I’m not talking about any particular 'X's, just 'X's in general), use no article at all (e.g. ‘Apples are in season just now’. ‘We need food to survive’).

You have completed Module 1, Unit 7: Articles.

This is the last unit in Module 1, Grammar.