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A. The Indefinite Article



The original meaning of a/an - one - explains why it is used only with countable nouns in the singular.

Here's a hundred pounds.

Don’t  me the plate as an ashtray.

The main function of the indefinite article is generally defined as classifying, i.e. referring a person, an animal, an object or a thing to a class of similar objects, things, etc.

This is a journal and that is a magazine.

A lawyer is a person who helps people with legal problems.

The classifying function is closely connected with the meaning of indefiniteness (any representative of a class, not a particular one) and novelty (this person, object, etc., is introduced in the context for the first time).

Last Sunday we found a small puppy in the park and brought it home.

I saw a pretty girl of about 20 in the corner of the room. Her face was unusually pale.

Somebody threw a large snowball at me as I was walking along the road.

As is seen from the given examples, a noun with the inde­finite article often has one or more descriptive attributes preceding or sometimes following it. It must be pointed out that the 'zero article' also has the meaning of indefiniteness and novelty, so whenever the situation requires the use of 'о/ал', but the type or the form of the noun (uncountable, countable plural) does not permit it, the zero article is used.

This car doesn Y use petrol, it's battery-powered. Intelligence is something you are born with, not something you learn.

The typical uses of the indefinite and the zero articles are demonstrated by the following sentence-patterns:

1. a predicative noun       Mr younger sister is a first-year student. Is it tea or coffee, waiter? They are experienced engineers.
2. a noun-object not mentioned in the context (after 'have', 'have got', 'see', 'buy', 'eat', etc.)   I've got an envelope, but I haven 't got a stamp. We went to the market to buy tomatoes and cucumbers. I never eat garlic. Are you interested in science?
3. a singular or plural noun after 'there is (are) '   There is a bedroom to the right. There are apples and pears in the basket. Wliile there is life - there is hope.
4. exclamatory sentences beginning with 'what'   What a lovely day! What juicy oranges! What tender meat!
5. after 'such ' as an intensifying adjective He is such a wise man! You shouldn 't say such words!

B. The Definite Article

The article 'the'derives from the Old English demonstrative pronoun 'se' (that), which accounts for deflniteness as its basic meaning: both the speaker and the hearer know what is being talked about.

The definiteness of the thing, object, etc. arises from a) an earlier mention of the noun in the context.

Sue and Frank have got two children: a girl and a boy. The girl is a student and the boy is still at school.

A man came up to a policeman and asked him a question. The policeman didn 't understand the question and so he asked the man to repeat it.

I've recently bought new jeans. The jeans cost me a pretty penny.

I found cheese and yogurt in the fridge. The cheese was absolutely stale.

b) the presence of a specifying (particularizing) modifier

(a prepositional phrase, an attributive clause, etc).

Who was the woman you were talking to just now? The house beyond the church was for sale.

c) the uniqueness of the object or group of objects denoted by the noun: the sun, the moon, the earth, the world, the horizon, the equator; the Queen (of this country), the kitchen (of this house), the children (belonging to a particular family), etc.

Shut the door! (there is only one open)

I had some trouble with the car. (I own one car only)

The definite article is not restricted in its usage: it can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns.

Wow, the sand is really hot! (an uncountable nounof material)

The film wasn 't good but we liked the music, (an uncountable abstract noun)

Come and look at the horses! (a countable noun, plural)

The definite article can also precede a proper noun. It is used, in particular, with nouns denoting the name of the whole family (the Browns) or geographical names such as water­ways (the Indian Ocean, the Volga, the Naroch, but Lake Naroch), mountain ranges (the Alps, the Urals, but Everest), and the name of cardinal points (the South, the North}. It must be remembered, however, that no article is used with the names of the continents (Asia, Europe), countries (Russia. Belarus, France), mountain peaks and towns.* There are a great number of set expressions and phrases in English in which the use of the indefinite, definite or zero article does not depend on the context. Memorizing some of them will help the learner to cope with the difficulties of using the article. Below is a list of such phrases.







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