Articles – a, an & the – advanced

Now that you’ve learned the basic use of the articles a, an, and the, you’re ready for a more complete understanding.

Articles are dropped when used with Proper nouns:  (Proper nouns are capitalized names.)

Microsoft has its head office in Redmond, Washington.
George got a managerial job at McDonald’s.

Exception:  If the proper noun has a “dictionary word” as part of the name, put the before the name because the proper noun is used as an adjective.

The Nile River is the longest river in the world.  (Nile is used as an adjective for River.)
The New York Stock Exchange is the world’s largest.
The Hawaiian Islands are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
The Rocky Mountains separate British Columbia from Alberta.

NOTE:  You can sometimes drop the “dictionary word” if it’s commonly known, but the is still used.

The Nile is the longest river in the world.  (River has been dropped.)
The Rockies separate British Columbia from Alberta.  [Rockies = Rocky Mountains and mountains has been dropped.)
The Pacific is the largest ocean in the world.  (Ocean has been dropped.)

ExceptionsMount, Mountain, Lake, City, Street/Road/Avenue/Boulevard (etc.), State (when last), New, North(ern), South(ern), East(ern), and West(ern) are “dictionary words” but the is not used.

Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world.
Whistler Mountain is a ski resort north of Vancouver.
Lake Louise is a tourist attraction in the Rocky Mountains.
New York City has a population of over 8 million people.
BUT:  The city of Vancouver gets half of its annual rainfall from November to January. (“city” is not part of the name)
The skytrain runs under Cambie Street.
Abbey Road was an album by the Beatles.
She went to school in New York State.  (BUT …in the state of New York.)
New Brunswick has an almost equal number of French and English speakers.
The state capital of North Dakota is Bismarck.
They moved here from Northern Ireland.
South Africa has eleven official languages.

BUT:  When north, east, south and west are used as a general area, the is used.

In the American revolution, the North fought against the South.
Many manufactured products come from the East.
For most of the 20th century, the developed countries were mostly in the West.

The is used when a proper noun is used as an adjective (to describe a noun.)

The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 caused fires that lasted for several days
(The earthquake in San Francisco)

The Chicago fire of 1871 destroyed over 17,000 buildings.
(The fire in Chicago)

The New York countryside is full of forests.
(The countryside in New York)

No article is used with general nouns (nouns that refer to all of something):

Gold is an expensive metal.
You should drink water everyday.
Honesty is a good quality to have.

However, if the noun isn’t used in a general way, then the is used.

The gold in this ring is expensive.
You shouldn’t drink the water from the tap.
The honesty of that man is unquestionable.

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Articles – a, an & the – basic

Articles a, an, and the are a challenge for many students.  The basic rule is that a and an are used when indicating “one out of many” and are only used before countable nouns (nouns that can be made plural) such as a man or an animal.

They are also used for generalities:  A weasel is an animal.
Note:  The plural forms are also used for generalities (Weasels are animals.)

An is used before a vowel or a silent ‘h’, for example, an hour, but not before a pronounced ‘h’, for example, a hero.  Watch out for words that begin with ‘u’.  If they sound like a ‘y’, then use a, as in a university (you-ni-ver-si-ty).  If “u” doesn’t sound like a ‘y‘, then use an, as in an uncle.

The, on the other hand, is used for specific things, things that are known by the speaker and the listener.  For example, in “Please close the door.” the listener knows which door the speaker is talking about.

The is also used when the speaker indicates which thing he/she is talking about by using an adjective (The first time…), a prepositional phrase (The book on the top shelf…), or an adjective clause (The socks that I bought yesterday).

The is used when there is only one of the thing, as in the moon, the beginning, or the President.

Finally, the is used when referring to general words that are all the same, such as the bathroom, the bus, the newspaper, the (tele)phone, the radio, the street, the government, the police, the fire department, and the army (navy, air force, marines)

It’s also used for musical instruments, such as the piano, the clarinet, the guitar.

Study this lesson, and when you’re ready, take the following quiz.

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© 2013 Ambien Malecot