Theory and Grammar - The Article

General description of the definite and indefinite articles or their absence meaning, facts about their origin. Detailed rules and recommendations of the use of the article or its omission in dependence on various features of the noun and of the sentence.

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1.1 The Indefinite article

1.2 The Definite article

1.3 Absence of the Article



2.1.1 The Use of the Article with Class-Nouns

2.1.2 The Article with Generic Singulars and Plurals

2.1.3 The Article with Nouns Considered to Be Unique








The main purpose of the studying is making students' knowledge of the English language more profound, building up their vocabulary, consolidating the skills acquired at high school with an emphasis on using English for communication in a variety of contexts and topics. In the classes we study and practice all aspects of English including speaking, listening, reading, writing, pronunciation and grammar.

One of the most difficult parts of grammar is the use of the article. The determining factor seems to be whether or not there are articles in the student's first (native) language. If it doesn't have them, as the Russian language does, then the student will have additional problems to face when studying a second language that does. Even quite advanced students make frequent slips with articles.

Compounding the problem is the fact that there are no good rules as far as articles are concerned. Many course books offer 'rules' but there are so many exceptions that they are difficult to apply and students have to fall back on learning them by heart. So we can see that the problem of the use of the article is very significant and actual, especially taking in account that this topic is not appreciated by teachers as worth of detail studying for a long term.

The purpose of this course paper is studying the theory of the article and learning the choice of the article which depends on various features of the noun and of the sentence in which it occurs. It will be done through examining of theoretical material of different scholars with examples, their analysis and further explanation in small details of the use of the articles with examples from original woks in the English language of different authors to make the articles not so difficult to be applied by the students.

The course paper consists of following parts:

1 chapter (theoretical) - general description of the definite and indefinite articles or their absence meaning, facts about their origin;

2 chapter (practical) - detailed rules and recommendations of the use of the article or its omission in dependence on various features of the noun and of the sentence, in which it occurs. This part includes a lot of examples and explanations of the use of the article; conclusion and the list of literature in which 20 sources are numbered.


The article is a form-word of the noun, and serves to specify it.

There are two articles in Modern English: the indefinite article and the definite article.

1.1 The Indefinite Article

The indefinite article has the forms a or an and is used with a noun in the singular. The form a [?] is used before words beginning with a consonant: a book, a house. The form an [an] is used before words beginning with a vowel: an apple, an orange.

The indefinite article originated from the numeral one (01 English an), but not directly from that numeral. The numeral one acquired the meaning of an indefinite pronoun = a certain (compare with the Russian: Один товарищ сказал мне это, where один has also the meaning of a certain -- некий, какой-то). The indefinite article developed from this pronominal one (= a certain). The original numerical meaning is still preserved in the indefinite article in such expressions as: not a (= one) word did he say; in a (= one) minute; at a blow, at a stretch, of an age, at a time:

They are of an age. Don't speak two at a time. Rome we not built in a day. His character may be seen at a glance. A stitch in time saves nine.

Owing to its origin from the numeral one, the use of the indefinite article is limited to countable nouns in the singular.

In the plural the noun has no article in a similar situation

A drop of rain fell on my hand. Drops of rain fell on my hand.

The indefinite article is used before a noun in the singular to indicate that the object denoted by the noun is one of a class or group without defining what particular place it occupies in that class or group. Thus, the indefinite article is used to refer a thin to a certain class and is therefore a classifying article:

Give me a pencil (some pencil or other, it does not matter which, any pencil will do; the speaker does not point out particular object, but only indicates that it is one of a class A girl wants to see you. (The speaker merely informs that the person in question is one of those human beings whom we call "girls.")

The noun which is used with the indefinite article may have a descriptive attribute. A descriptive attribute describes the person or thing denoted by the noun or gives some additional information Such an attribute only narrows the class to which the object denoted by the noun belongs but does not show that the speaker single out one particular object within that narrowed class:

Give me a red pencil (any pencil out of the class of the pencils). A young girl of about seventeen wants to see you (The person in question is one of those human beings whom we call "young girls of about seventeen.")

1.2 The Definite Article

The definite article has two pronunciations: before a vowel and before a consonant.

The definite article the is a weakened form of the Old English demonstrative pronoun (nominative, dative accusative etc), which in Old English, besides the function of a demonstrative, had also the function of the article. The demonstrative force of the definite article is still felt in such expressions as nothing of the (that) kind; at the (that) time; under the (those) circumstances; for the (that) purpose.

The definite article is used before a noun to show that in the mind of the speaker and the hearer the object denoted by the noun is marked as a definite object, distinct from all other objects of a class or group of objects of a certain description. That is why the definite article is an individualizing or limiting article. This article is used before nouns in the plural, as well as before nouns in the singular number:

Give me the pencil. (The speaker indicates that he has a definite pencil in mind, that which is on the table, in the hand of the person addressed, etc). The girl has come. (The speaker points out a particular girl, that girl, who was expected to come, who has already been spoken about, etc).

When the noun is used with the definite article the context or the whole situation shows that the mind of the speaker is concentrated on that particular object:

...the sharp wind beats, the windows rattle and the chimneys growl. (Dickens) ...she ran so fast that we were very near the cottage before I caught her. (Dickens) He wheeled his bicycle into the barn. (Lawrence). Stars were sparkling out there over the river... (Galsworthy).

The use of a limiting attribute is a means to show in the context of the sentence that the object denoted by the noun is singled out by the speaker from all objects of the same description and is therefore used with the definite article: last they reached the outskirts of the forest, and saw, far down in the valley beneath them the lights of the village in which they dwelt. (Wilde). Both uncles then began to talk about the years they had spent in England... (Mazo de la Roche). The room where we sat was small and dingy... (Lea Сock) ...the song of birds... filled the air... (Dickens). The room, in which the boys were fed, was a large stone hall... (Dickens).

The definite article is also used to refer back to an object which has already been mentioned:

Peggotty had a basket of refreshments on her knee ...Peggotty always went to sleep with her chin upon the handle of the basket, her hold of which never relaxed... (Dickens). ...she... brought out... a purse which she put into my hand ...I had now leisure to examine the purse. (Dickens).

1.3 Absence of the Article

In a number of cases the noun is associated neither with the definite nor with the indefinite article. I kit not every absence of the article is a mere omission of it. We сan speak of the omission of the article when it is dropped in newspaper headings (The local weekly newspaper came out in banner headlines: "Heroic Act of Local Boy” (Gordon), in stage remarks (Crossing to window and looking out), (Galsworthy); in telegrams (Wire definite answer), in dictionaries, etc. Here the omission of the article is a question of conciseness of style and; lie definite or indefinite article may easily be inserted without affecting the meaning (A Heroic Act of a Local Boy. Crossing the window... Wire a definite answer).

But very often the absence of the definite or indefinite article has definite meaning and is an established rule in the language. Here the insertion of the definite or indefinite article would bring about a change of meaning.

Compare the following examples:

This book deals with the problem of language. (Here language is used in its most general sense, the abstract idea of language as such, but not one of the existing languages).

French is a Romanic language. (Here a Romanic language is one of the existing languages).

The language of the people who live in Holland is called Dutch. (Here the language means a particular language that is spoken by the Dutch).

The apple-tree was in full blossom. (We do not think of the separate little blossoms, but of the process of blossoming which made the tree look quite white).

Compare: A white blossom fell on her shoulder. (One of the many white blossoms that covered the apple-tree).

The little blossom that I picked from the tree was like a snow flake. (That particular blossom that I picked from the tree, a definite blossom out of all the blossoms covering the tree).

From the above-mentioned examples we see that the absence of the article has generalizing force; it shows that we do not have in view an individual object (definite or indefinite) belonging to a class of similar objects, but express more abstract, more general ideas. Thus we find the absence of the article with nouns used in a general sense, which are the names of materials, such as water, snow, bread, or the names of abstract notions, such as friendship, love, science (uncountable nouns):

Deep snow covered the ground. What fine weather we are having!

In a similar situation a class-noun (countable) would have the indefinite article:

A white blossom lay on the ground. What a fine day it is!

A noun used without an article may have descriptive attributes which narrow the meaning of the noun but do not affect the generalizing force of the absence of the article:

This cupboard is made of hard polished oak. (Hard polished oak indicates a special sort of oak, but the noun remains a name of material [uncountable] and the absence of the article marks it). This statue is a masterpiece of ancient art. (Ancient art is narrower in its meaning than art in general, but the noun remains an abstract noun, an uncountable).

Compare: It is a real pleasure to see you well again. (Here the indefinite article is used to show that the noun pleasure denotes one of the concrete manifestations of the feeling of pleasure and thus is treated as a countable). It is a very good wine. (Here the noun wine denotes one particular sort of wine out of the many existing sorts and is therefore a countable). I hope we shall soon have the pleasure of seeing you again. (The pleasure means that particular pleasure which we derive from your company). The coffee we drank was very strong. (The coffee means that particular coffee which we drank on that particular occasion).



2.1.1 The Use of the Article with Class-Nouns

С1ass-nоuns (which belong to the group of countable nouns) are used with the definite or indefinite article; the choice of the article depends on the context or the general situation:

A little lighthouse began to shine. (Gissing). Manson leaped from the train and walked quickly down the platform... (Cronin).

The Use of the Indefinite Article with Class-Nouns

When a class-noun in the singular denotes an object which is considered as one of a class of similar objects, no matter which, the indefinite article (a, an) is used; a noun in the plural indicating an indefinite number of objects of a certain class is used without an article.

A class-noun used with the indefinite article has either no attribute at all or a descriptive attribute.

Here are some examples when the noun has no attribute whatsoever:

She walked on and reached a station, hot and crosses. (Galsworthy). Near at hand, upon a shelf, were his books. (Norris. I leaned against a gate... (Bronte). and there a star shone. (London). A goldfish rose to the surface of the little pond... (Norris). It was Presley's work table, and was invariably littered with papers ...notebooks, pens... (Norris).

Here are some examples when the noun has a descriptive attribute,* the examples are classified according to the type of the descriptive attribute.

a) The noun has a descriptive attribute expressed by an adjective or a participle. An adjective has usually descriptive force. Though in some cases it may be a limiting attribute (see the example with the adjective soft given in the footnote):

It was a glistening, white-and-blue day. (Lawrence). Soft white clouds began to spread their wings over the roads. (Galsworthy). We could see a wild stone-walled park. (Galsworthy). A little, round clock ticked solemnly. (Galsworthy). It was a glorious morning, late spring or early summer... (Jerome). What a still, hot, perfect day! What a golden desert this spreading moor! (Bronte). It was a cold dark night. (Dickens). The boys were glad to find a blazing fire... (Dodge).

b) The noun has a descriptive attribute expressed by a noun with a preposition (especially the preposition of):

A long soft ripple of wind flowed over the corn, and brought a puff of warm air into their faces. (Galsworthy). And now his eldest daughter, a girl of fifteen ...looked after the two younger children. (Lawrence). A woman with dark hair and a thin, straight face and figure was arranging some flowers in the hall. (Galsworthy). On the shore there was a group of fishermen... (Hitchens).

c) The noun has a descriptive attribute expressed by a partiсip1e phrase placed after the noun:

On the terrace was a broad wooden bench running round the walls. (Voynich). He entered the home covert by a path leading through a group of pear trees just coming into bloom. (Galsworthy). It was a low room, ceiled with dark beams... (Kingsley). Yesterday I passed by an elm avenue, leading to a beautiful old house. (Gissing). There were pears and apples clustered high in blooming pyramids... (Dickens). As I rode past an orchard, an apple, loosened by the rainstorm, came down with a thud. (Galsworthy).

d) The noun has a descriptive attribute expressed by an infinitive placed after the noun:

"Do you know a new song to teach me?" said Edgar. (Lawrence). "Here's a peg to hang your cap on." (Lawrence). She asked him for a book to read. (Lawrence). I was never allowed a candle to light me to bed. (Dickens).

e) The noun has a descriptive attribute expressed by an attributive clause:

A great lamp, with a green shade, hung over an easel, where the artist had been sketching in crayon. (Henry). At last they came to a point where they could descend no further... (Kingsley). In May we had a late frost followed by a thaw which turned everything to slush. (Cronin).

As it has already been stated (see ''Expression of Number in Different Classes of Nouns," p. 27) many class-nouns which have both singular and plural (countable) may through a change of meaning turn into names of materials or acquire a more general collective meaning. Then they are used only in the singular (uncountable). This change of meaning affects the use of the article. A noun which is used only in the singular (uncountable) has no article where a noun which expresses both numbers (countable) has the indefinite article.

Compare the following:

A beautiful birch grew at the water's edge. The frame is made of birch. A golden leaf fluttered in the air and fell to the ground. The tree was in leaf. A fish splashed on the still surface of the water. We had fish for dinner. An old oak was struck by lightning last night. This bookcase is made of oak. It is all oak in this locality.

The Use of the Definite Article with Class-Nouns

When a class-noun denotes an object which is regarded by the speaker as a definite object distinct from all other objects of a certain class, it is used with the definite article. The definite article is alto used with class-nouns in the plural to distinguish a definite group of objects belonging to a certain class.

As had already been stated, the context or the whole situation that the speaker has a definite object in mind and therefore uses the definite article:

And she walked fast between the flowers... (Galsworthy). A minute later the door was unlocked... (London). Voices and footsteps were heard in the passage... (Conrad). The tall white lilies were reeling in the moonlight... (Lawrence). Stars were sparkling out there over the river. (Galsworthy). The child sat on the table looking at him... (Dickens). Paul went with the boys into the orchard... (Lawrence). As she entered the lounge, she was called to the telephone. She hurried across and lifted the receiver. (Gordon). And slowly she began mounting the stairs. (Galsworthy). It was on the beach, close down by the sea that I found them. (Dickens).

A class-noun used with the definite article has often a limiting attribute. Here are some examples classified according to the type of the limiting attribute:

a) The limiting attribute is expressed by a noun with a preposition (most often the of-phrase):

An enormous orange moon was staring at them from the rim of the sand hills. (Lawrence). Outside, on the landing, he kicked the snow from his shoes and then came back to the armchair opposite mine. (Snow). The afternoon was golden over the hills of Derbyshire. (Lawrence). Gradually, I became used to seeing the gentleman with the whiskers. (Dickens). The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn. (Wilde).

But as we have already seen, not every phrase is a limiting attribute; there are instances when the phrase has purely descriptive force (see "The Use of the Indefinite Article with Class-Nouns," p. 51):

b) The limiting attribute is expressed by a subordinate attributive clause:

But she handled the car with skill in the narrow involved streets that led to Jan's flat... (Cusack). The room where we sat was small and dingy, with little furniture except our chairs and the little table at which we filled and arranged our pipes... (Leacock). In going towards the door, I passed the person who had come in, and saw him plainly. (Dickens). The cloud which came on now was like an April cloud... (Galsworthy). In the perfect calm that had fallen, I heard breakers murmuring softly upon the beach. (Gissing). Here and there I strayed through the orchard gathering the apples with which the grass round the tree roots was thickly strewn. (Bronte) The wind roared high in the great trees which embowered the gates... (Bronte). "She is not the girl she was at all." (Joyce). She and the aunt (by marriage) with whom she lives are coming from Ireland to spend part of the summer with me. (Mazo de la Roche).

Compare with attributive clauses of descriptive character which modify nouns used with the indefinite article:

...I sat down on a stile which led... into a field. (Bronte). ...a little carriage was got for him, in which he could lie at his ease... (Dickens).

c) The limiting attribute is expressed by a participle phrase placed after the noun which it modifies:

This was the morning appointed for Richard's departure. (Dickens). And in the straight, narrow road, leading up the hill their feet kicked up a yellow dust. (Galsworthy). The pool formed by the damming of a rock had a sandy bottom... (Galsworthy). ...I like the clear rough waves dashing against the rocks in Cornwall. (Aldington).

d) The limiting attribute is expressed by an adjective, although an adjective has usually descriptive force. It becomes limiting only when contrast or choice is implied (also with such adjectives as very, only):

Give me the red pencil (but not the blue one). Let us take the narrow path. Put on the blue dress. Pass me the big cup. It was the only misprint I found in the text.

It was the very thing he liked. (Dickens).

But: It was a grey, cold day, with a sharp wind... (Lawrence). It was a lovely landscape. (Jerome). And a little cold, talkative wind had risen... (Galsworthy).

The definite article is used to indicate a particular place in the room (by the window, at the door, in the corner, at the table, etc):

She stood at the window. A little sofa stood in the corner. There was a looking-glass on the wall. They were sitting at the table engaged in a lively conversation.

"I was in my own room, and sitting by the window..." (Bronte). He went to the window and looked out... (Gordon).

When we want to stress that there are several objects and we mean one of them we say:

A single sunbeam was slanting across one of my windows to the other... (Galsworthy). We did not stay there, after dinner, but came upstairs into the drawing-room again: in one snug corner of which, Agnes set glasses for her father, and a decanter of port wine. (Dickens).

The definite article is also used with class-nouns to show that the speaker refers back to an object already mentioned:

We went to a hotel by the sea... we came back to the hotel to an early dinner. (Dickens). He... put a tin pot of water on to boil. Then he drank the pot of water, steaming hot. (London).

2.1.2 The Article with Generic Singulars and Plurals

1. The definite article is used with a class-noun if the noun represents a whole class (generic singular). A certain class is contrasted here to other classes:

The horse is a useful domestic animal. (The horse marks a particular class of domestic animals as distinct from other classes, such as the dog, the cow, etc).

...we often had the traveler or stranger visit us. (Goldsmith). ...the juiciest of all fruits, the water-melon, is found in astonishing profusion... (R. Eliot). It is only on the east coast south of the Zambezi... that the wild elephant can now be found. (Bryce). ...the primeval forest lies before the traveler in all its height and depth and solemnity. (Thomson). To-day, if the lion is found at all within the limits of Cape Colony, it is only in the wilderness along the banks of the Orange River. (Bryce). Thus, in the making of him had gone Land Sea, the Norseman and the Celt. (Galsworty)

The nouns man and woman used in the singular in a generic sense have no article. They closely approach here the meaning of the abstract nouns mankind and womankind:

The victory of Socialism in the USSR did away with the exploitation of man by man once and for all. Never was woman as independent as in the Soviet Union.

And in all that mighty sweep of earth he saw no sign of man or the handiwork of man... (London). At that hour when man was still abed and the land lived its own life, how full and sweet and wild that life seemed... (Galsworthy). I fought for freedom, for the brotherhood of man. (Gordon).

2. Sometimes the indefinite article also serves to mark the generic use of a noun in the singular. A horse means any horse but not a particular individual horse, and therefore it may be used to represent the whole class:

A horse is a useful domestic animal. A cat is not as vigilant as a dog. A squirrel can jump very high.

A wounded deer usually works downhill, a hunted Grizzly [a bear] climbs. (Seton-Thompson).

Notice the difference in the use of the definite and indefinite article with generic singulars in the following instances:

The telephone is very useful (the whole class as compared to other classes, such as the telescope, the microscope, etc). . A telephone is very useful (any telephone -- therefore the whole class).

But we can only say:

The telephone was invented by Bell (not any telephone, no matter which, but that class of instruments as compared to other classes, such as the telescope, the microscope, etc).

The elephant can carry heavy loads or an elephant can carry heavy loads.

But a teacher of natural science will say to his pupils:

To-day the topic of our lesson will be the elephant (not an elephant which would mean any elephant and therefore the whole class; but just that species of animals set apart from other species such as the ape, the tiger, etc)..

3. Nouns in the plural representing a whole class are used without an article:

There are several ways of capturing wild horses. (Seton-Thompson).


A tiger is a ferocious beast (any tiger and therefore the whole class). Tigers are ferocious beasts (any indefinite number of tigers and therefore the whole class).

4. The definite article may serve to mark a generic plural with partially substantives adjectives and participles such as the brave, the young, the old, the blind, etc. (See "Substantives Adjectives," p. 87)

The wicked always think other people are as bad as themselves. (Scott). How foolish the old were, thinking they could tell what the young felt. (Galsworthy). The besieged passed an anxious night. (Macaulay).

Note. -- The use of the definite article before the names of nations emphasizes the idea of collectiveness, the whole body of... etc.:

The Belgians live in Belgium. The Norwegians are a seafaring nation.

But only: Norwegians may be found all over the globe (because we do not mean here the nation as a whole).

2.1.3 The Article with Nouns Considered to Be Unique

The definite article is used with class-nouns which denote things considered to be unique, such as the earth, the sun, the moon, the world, the sky, the universe. Here we have a special case: the class consists only of one representative, and therefore the object denoted by the noun is always definite in our mind:

The earth and the sky were already beginning to be enriched with the evening. (Chesterton). And suddenly the moon appeared, young and tender, floating on her back. (Galsworthy). The sky was cloudless; the sun shone out bright and warm... (Dickens). When she woke early on Sunday morning the world sparkled as though it had been newly born. (Cusack).

Compare with nouns denoting other celestial bodies such as stars and planets. Here the definite and the indefinite article or no article is used as with any other class noun:

Looking through the black mist he could see a star. (Galsworthy). Stars were sparkling out there over the river... (Galsworthy). ...the stars very high and white, the flowers glimmering in the garden-beds... (Galsworthy).

But we may also find these unique nouns associated with the indefinite article. This takes place when we consider the different aspects in which the sun, the moon, etc., may appear; the noun is usually associated with a descriptive attribute indicating that special aspect: a full moon, a pale moon, a brilliant red sun, a dark blue sky, etc. In this case the class no longer comprises a single representative but includes several. Occasionally we find even the plural:

The moon! He could just see it over the bank behind: red, nearly round -- a strange moon! (Galsworthy). The rays of a bright morning sun had a dazzling effect among the glittering foliage. (Irving). ...a pale, crystalline sky arched over the valleys. (Cusack). A splendid Midsummer shone over England: skies so pure, suns as radiant as were then seen in long succession, seldom favored, even singly, our wave-girt land. (Bronte). Beyond the closed window the moon rode up, a full and brilliant moon... (Galsworthy). June had come in with skies of blue that not even London glare and dust could pale. (Galsworthy).

Note.--in some set phrases earth is used without an article because the noun acquires abstract meaning:

"How on earth," I said, "do you manage to keep cats and dogs in one room?" (Galsworthy). "What on earth do you mean?" - she asked. (Locke).


1. The indefinite article is used before a noun predicative and this is one of the most characteristic functions of the indefinite article, as the noun predicative shows that the subject is one of a class:

Janet was a pretty blooming girl... (Dickens). Her husband was a miner. (Lawrence). was a lovely summer morning. (Bronte). The parlour was rather a small room very plainly furnished... (Bronte).

When a noun predicative indicating rank, state, occupation, etc., is used without an article, it shows that the noun has acquired abstract meaning: He is rector of Moscow University. (Here rector does not mean one of the classes but denotes a certain state or office conferred on the subject and becomes similar in meaning to the abstract noun rectorship).

The predicative usually acquires this meaning when the rank, state or occupation is unique:

He is president of the Academy of Sciences (Presidentship has been conferred on him). He is secretary of our Party organization. During the last ten years she has been head-teacher of an elementary school. He is director of our Institute. "He was assistant professor of Romanic languages at Yale or something like that." (Maugham). Stoke was appointed Surgeon General. (L. Sinclair). Miss Temple, through all changes, had thus far continued superintendent of the seminary... (Bronte).

The same abstract meaning is associated with the noun predicative in such instances as:

Her father, Robert Evant, was son of George Evant, a builder and carpenter in Derbyshire. (E1iоt).

The abstract meaning of state, occupation, etc., is also implied in a noun predicative when the predicative is introduced by as used without an article.

He went on board a ship as cabin boy.

When the noun predicative identifies the subject, that is, shows that the subject is the very person or thing expressed by the predicative, the latter is used with the definite article:

He is the man who brought the letter. This is the book I mentioned. This is the article which has to be translated. She was the person responsible for the work. I presume that you are the director of this Institute. Is this comrade the secretary of your Party organization? Jack London is the author of this novel.

The same rules for the use of the article apply to a noun in the function of an objective predicative. (See "The Complex Object," p. 371)

I consider this picture a masterpiece of art (--one of a class). Old Mr. Thomas Cardew... made me in his will guardian to his granddaughter, Miss Cecily Cardew. (Wilde). (--the state is unique).

2. The indefinite article is used with an apposition which denotes that the head-noun is one of a class:

Only one picture was in any way noticeable, a portrait admirably executed in pen and ink. (Leacock). There was one flower, an orchid that grew alone... (Maurier). "She was seventeen then -- a beautiful young creature." (Galsworthy). Gulls swooped by us -- ghosts of the old greedy wonders of the sea. (Galsworthy). ...I see a light glimmering in the farm house window--a little ray against the blackness of the great hillside, below which the water sleeps. (Gissing).

The definite article is used before an apposition when it refers to a well-known person:

War and Peace was written by Leo Tolstoy, the Great Russian writer. Tchaikovsky, the Great Russian composer, is known all over the world. Lebedev, the great physicist, was born in 1866. The chief ornament of this street is the Scott monument commemorating the life and work of Sir Walter Scott, the first great historical novelist of the English language and Edinburgh's most famous son. (Patter).

An apposition is used without an article when it denotes dignity, rank, etc. used as a title and either 1) follows a proper noun (its head-noun) or 2) precedes it:

I have bought a pronouncing dictionary by D. Jones, professor of phonetics in the University of London. Mr. Mer- win, president of the club, will be in the chair.

Headly began quietly talking to Major Cambell... (King- sley). "I have just seen Professor Grant." (Cronin). Captain Musgrave entered the room swiftly... (Chesterton).

We find the same meaning in such cases as:

Brown married Mary Godwin, daughter of the late professor Godwin. (Her being the daughter of a well-known professor is regarded as a kind of rank characterizing Mary Godwin). We saw a piece of sculpture by Mrs. Scott, wife of the late explorer. But: Mrs. Mowit, the wife of the artist, Mr. Jackson, his brother, and two of his daughters were a few others with whom I rubbed shoulders in the crowd (at the exhibition).

The definite article is used with an apposition when it precedes a proper noun and denotes state, specialty, profession, etc., not used as a title:

The composer Glinka. The physicist Lebedev. The hunter Davidson. The girl Megan seemed the only active figure... (Galsworthy). The boy Jack approached the tea-table... (Galsworthy).

There is no article before nouns denoting title, rank or dignity, when these nouns follow the nouns rank, title, etc., as appositive o/-phrases:

The title of Hero of Socialist Labour was conferred upon him. The University conferred the dignity of Doctor on the celebrated scientist.

3. Homogeneous parts of a sentence expressed by class-nouns connected by the conjunctions and, either... or, neither... nor have no article in lively speech, also in descriptive style to stress their close connection:

Rider and bicycle, cart and horse were all in a heap (It was impossible to distinguish the separate objects in the collision). ...the Green Park, under breeze and sun, smelled of grass and leaves. (Galsworthy). Both window and door stood open; still there was no draught... (Galsworthy). Now over wood and river the evening drew in fast. (Galsworthy).

With them, or near them, are two children: boy and girl. (Dickens). Neither tree nor bush grew on that slope. (Lоndon).

4. There is no article before a class noun in enumeration when the noun serves merely to name a thing:

Day after day it was the one topic of conversation, at street corners, at cross-roads, over dinner-table, in office, bank and store. (Norris). She drew from the box teapot, sugar-bowl, milk-jug ... hot-water jug, and cake-stand (Bennett). "Telephone, safe, ticker ... well, that's progress, isn't it?" (Nor r is).

5. The indefinite article is used with a class-noun (countable) in an exclamatory sentence beginning with the exclamatory what:

"What a lovely instrument the violin!" (Galsworthy). What a night to wander out in! (Galsworthy). What a still, hot, perfect day! What a golden desert this spreading moor! (Bronte).

Compare with interrogative sentences where a noun modified by the attributive pronoun what has no article:

What book are you reading? What question did he put you?

6. The article is absent in adverbial prepositional phrases (phraseological combinations) where the nouns have acquired abstract meaning of state, position, manner, etc., such as by land, on shore, at sea, on deck, by train, by railway, etc.:

Peter has gone to sea -- he is a sailor. (But: In summer I shall go to the sea -- here the noun sea has its concrete meaning). They all stood on deck. (But: The heavy chests were put on the deck).

He went hastily on deck. (Conrad). Well, I worked my way to Suez on board a ship whose doctor had fallen ill... (Kingsley). Leaving Invercargill by train, I had a somewhat tedious and uninteresting ride for six hours... (Payton). When he came on deck next morning they were close to land. (Maugham).

Some prepositional phraseological combinations connected with the parts of the body have the same abstract adverbial meaning marked by the absence of the article, such as: by hand, at hand, on foot, from head to foot, from top to toe, off-hand, etc.

About noon he set out on foot across Richmond Park. (Galsworthy). Her invincible repugnance to this man... made Florence shake from head to foot. (Dickens). A little electric bell on the wall near at hand trilled a warning. (Norris).

The article is also absent in the following phraseological combinations used adverbially: by chance, by mistake, by name, at home, at present, at first sight, for ages, etc.

Some prepositional phraseological combinations used adverbially have the definite or the indefinite article: in the main, on the one hand... on the other hand, in the original, at the time, etc; at a glance, in a loud (low) voice, in a whisper, in a hurry, etc.

7. There is no article in the so-called repetition groups when a noun is repeated and connected by a preposition. Here we clearly see the abstract meaning of the state or manner expressed by these adverbial phrases: hand in hand, day by day, arm in arm, from rock to rock, from tree to tree, etc.:

Some of these repetition groups have become phraseological combinations such as: day by day, year by year, arm in arm, hand in hand, side by side. Also when the noun is connected with an adverb: day in day out (изо дня в день), year in year out (из года в год).

They went side by side, hand in hand, silently towards the hedge, where the may-flower, both pink and white, was in full bloom. (Galsworthy). "And day by day we passed in the snow..." (London). And there before him, mile after mile, illimitable, covering the earth from horizon to horizon, lay the wheat. (Nогris). The forces of the peace camp are growing in numbers and strength from day to day.

8. The article may be absent in nominative absolute constructions used as adverbial modifiers of attending circumstances, such as:

Anixter bore the case into the sitting-room of the house and, hammer in hand, attacked it vigorously. (Norris). And. cigar in mouth, old Jolyon said: "Play me some Chopin." (Galsworthy). Crouching, hand round knees; she turned her face to get the warmth of the sun... (Galsworthy).

9. Sometimes a verb is so closely connected with its object (direct or prepositional) as to form a phraseological combination.

Notice the use of the article in the following phraseological


A transitive verb with its direct object

a) The noun is used with the indefinite article: to have a swim (a wash), to have a shave, to have a smoke, to have a walk (to take a walk), to have a headache (a toothache) (but to have earache), to have a cold, to have a (good) time, to have a look, to have a mind (иметь желание или намерение что-либо сделать), to pay a visit, to give a dry (высушить), to give a start, to take a fancy, to make a beginning, etc.

The noun is used with the definite article: to take the trouble, to play the piano (the violin), (but to play chess, foot ball), to tell the truth (по правде говоря), to speak the truth (говорить правду), etc.

The noun is used without an article: to take place, to take part (in..)., to take notice (of..)., to take interest (in..)., to take care (of..)., to take advantage (of..)., to catch sight (of..)., to lose sight (of..)., to catch hold (of..)., to take hold (of..)., to make haste, to make use (of..)., to give (get) permission, to give birth (to..)., to give way (to..)., to give proof (of..)., to change countenance, to pay attention (to..)., to cast anchor. to restore order, to send word, to keep pace (with..).

10. The verb to be followed by with a preposition may also combination.

The noun is used with the indefinite article: to be in a hurry, to be at a loss, to be in a rage (a fury), to be at a disadvantage, etc.

The noun is used with the definite article: to be on the safe side, to be out of the question, etc.

The noun has no article: to be of opinion, to be of interest, to be in debt, to be at work, to be at peace, to be at fault, to be on leave, to be at stake, to be at war, etc.


1. Names of materials have no article when they are used in a general sense, as uncountable. In this case they have either no attribute whatsoever or have a descriptive attribute:

Jan spread butter on thick slices of fresh bread... (Cusack). ...his mother... gave us hot bacon for supper... (Jerome). As the iron casks reach the top, they pour iron-ore, coke, and lime into the blazing inside of the furnace. (Marsh). He gathered an armful of dry wood... (London). Coffee, without cream or milk, he had twice a day, in the evening substituting tea... (London). It was wet snow... and the flakes were large and soggy. (London).

2. The definite article is used with names of materials when they are narrowed in their meaning. This narrowing of meaning is shown by the context or the whole situation. Sometimes a limiting attribute is used to show that the meaning of the noun is narrowed:

But suddenly he heard steps on the snow (on which the man was walking). (London). The ice was a little rough and broken just there... (Dodge).

AH this is known with certainty from the remains which actually exist deep under the sand on which you stand. (Stanley). They waded into the shallow water at the edge of the lake... (Cusack). It [the elk] crashed down to earth on the snow beyond... (London).

3. Both the indefinite and the definite article may be used with names of materials when they denote different sorts. In such a case they become countable nouns:

It is a very rare wine. The wines of the Crimea are excellent.

4. When a noun of material serves to denote an object made of that material, it turns into a class-noun (a countable noun) and may accordingly be used with the definite or indefinite article:

...George drew out a tin of pineapple from the bottom of the hamper-- (Jerome). -- (tin -- жесть, a tin -- жестянка, банка). She then proceeded to fill a glass with water... The tray shook as I held it; the water spilt from the glass..


1. Such collective nouns as linen, crockery, pottery, machinery, leafage, foliage, etc. (uncountable) have no article when they are used in a general sense. In such cases they have either no attribute whatsoever or a descriptive attribute:

The plant produces agricultural machinery. You can get excellent linen in our shops. They made a fire of brushwood. The darkness, strange with exotic foliage, glimmering with golden lamps--- had deeply impressed him. (Galsworthy).

2. The definite article is used with this group of collective nouns when their meaning is narrowed (by a limiting attribute or the whole situation):

I hear a pattering upon the still leafage of the garden... (Gissing). He traversed the shrubbery, glanced into the walled garden -- no Jon! (Galsworthy). (The shrubbery of that particular place which he traversed).

3. The definite article is used with collective nouns expressing political and social notions such as the Communist Party, the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the proletariat, the working class, the bourgeoisie, the press, the public, etc.:

It is notable that the Central Committee of the Communist Party pays far more attention... to the work of its student members than any other political body gives to its student section. (Cornford). The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. (The Communist Manifesto). ...the true history of capitalist society can only be written by the proletariat. (Cornford). On either side of the chamber are galleries for the Press and the public. (Potter).


1. Abstract nouns have no article when they express abstract notions in a general sense. In this case they belong to the group of uncountable nouns.

They are used without any attribute whatsoever or with a descriptive attribute:

Poetry, like music, stirred him profoundly... (London). Life at the farm goes on as usual. (Galsworthy). It was cold, bleak, biting weather. (Diсkens). There is no month in the whole year, in which nature wears a more beautiful appearance than in the month of August. (Dickens). A single distant clap of thunder came from the sea like a gun of distress. (Conrad). Strange delight inspired me: I hastened. (Bronte). "I don't know what fear is," pursued the engineer... (Conrad).

2. The definite article is used with abstract nouns when they are narrowed in their meaning.

The context or the whole situation shows that the meaning of the noun is narrowed. Very often a limiting attribute indicates that the abstract notion is taken in a narrowed sense:

The result was not altogether the success that Harris had anticipated. (Jerome). She closed the window again, and sitting down upon the bed, thought of the life that was before them. (Dickens). ...the freshness of the wood flowers attested that foot of man seldom pressed them... (Bronte). ...the distant trees were lost in the gloom of a starless night. (Collins).

3. The indefinite article is used with abstract nouns when they express concrete instances or special aspects of the notion which they denote. In such cases they belong to countable nouns. This change of meaning is usually marked by a descriptive attribute:

A quiet happiness, as of old recollections, came into her eyes. (Kingsley). Under a glowing sky of summer, this air of the uplands has still a life which spurs to movement, which makes the heart bound. (Gissing). He was haunted by a fear that the food would not last. (London). ...a sweet fragrance rose from the wild grasses. (Galsworthy). It was a wonderful experience. (Conrad). A dead silence prevailed. (London).

4. The definite article is used with partially substantives adjectives expressing abstract notions, such as the beautiful, the picturesque, the impossible, etc. (See «Substantives Adjectives,")

The mirth of Tom Sawyer was rapidly ripening into the furious; Mr. Ben Allen was fast relapsing into the sentimental. (Dickens).

5. A number of abstract nouns are usually treated as countable and used with the -definite or indefinite article according to the- general rules of the use of these articles (see "The Indefinite Article- and The Definite Article."):

As I walked to-day in the golden sunlight --this warm still' day on the far verge of autumn -- there suddenly came to me a thought... (Gissing). "But, mother, do you really think it's a good idea?" said Laura. (Mansfield).

The Use of the Article with some Abstract Nouns

1. Nouns denoting the parts of the day: morning, day, evening, night, afternoon, noon, midnight, are used with the definite article when a particular morning, evening, etc. is meant.

The night was fine but very dark... (Maxwell). ...the morning passed just as usual... (Bronte). The day... was damp, dark cold and gloomy. (Dickens). In the afternoon Dinny lay down on her bed and went to sleep. (Galsworthy). In the morning the alarm-clock woke her at seven. (Saxton). Used with the preposition in the nouns morning, day, evenings etc. may refer to a part of the day in general:

"When its fine and we go out for a walk in the evening, the streets abound in enjoyment for us." (Dickens).

The nouns day, night, etc. have no article when they are used in a more general abstract sense. This is found:

a) When the nouns day, morning, night, etc. are used as pre dicatives, sometimes as objects:

It was midnight. It was evening and dew was falling. I like early morning -- especially in spring... (Galsworthy).

b) In one-member sentences such as: Morning, cold and grey... (Galsworthy).

c) In adverbial phraseological combinations of these nouns with the prepositions at and by: at night, at midnight, at noon, by day:

She woke at midnight. (Galsworthy). Owls sleep by day; I usually rode back at night... (Dickens). At noon our young friends poured forth from the schoolhouse... (Dodge).

Sometimes the article is also absent with other prepositions. But in these cases both absence of the article and the definite article may be found depending on the meaning implied:

We reached home towards evening (time); towards the evening (the evening of that particular day). I slept undisturbed till morning (time); till the morning (the morning of that particular day). Till evening the wind whistled above our heads... (Gissing). Towards the evening of the following day... a letter arrived addressed to her. (Coppard).

Also in such cases when nouns denoting the parts of the day are connected with each other by means of prepositions and have the function of adverbial modifiers of time:

...I was termed naughty and tiresome, sullen and sneaking, from morning to noon, and from noon to night. (Bronte). Morning after morning of late I have taken my walk in the same direction... (Gissing).

When day or morning means "light" and evening or night means "darkness":

I rose as soon as day dawned. (Bronte). "Evening approaches," said I, as I looked towards the window. (Bronte). Night came on slowly. (Thomson). He saw day coming. (Galsworthy). He had walked no more than twelve miles when night closed in again. (Dickens).

2) When the nouns day, evening, night, etc. have a descriptive attribute, they are used with the indefinite article (in plural without an article):

We met on a bright sunny day (one of the bright sunny days of the year). It was winter, and a night of bitter cold. (Wilde). We decided that we would sleep out on fine nights... (Jerome). I cannot honestly say that we had a merry evening... (Jerome). A wonderful warm, black, grape-bloom night, exquisitely gracious and inviting... (Galsworthy). It was a rainy evening. (Lawrence). It was a warm, cloudless, enticing day. (Hardy).

Notice that, the nouns morning, evening, etc. have no article when modified by the adjectives early or late. These adjectives do not give a qualitative characteristic to the noun but merely a temporal one:

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