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I want to know when I should use 'the' or 'a/an' or nothing.
Feb 17, 2010 2:18 PM
Answers · 3
* a = indefinite article (not a specific object, one of a number of the same objects) with consonants She has a dog. I work in a factory. * an = indefinite article (not a specific object, one of a number of the same objects) with vowels (a,e,i,o,u) Can I have an apple? She is an English teacher. * the = definite article (a specific object that both the person speaking and the listener know) The car over there is fast. The teacher is very good, isn't he? * The first time you speak of something use "a or an", the next time you repeat that object use "the". I live in a house. The house is quite old and has four bedrooms. I ate in a Chinese restaurant. The restaurant was very good. * DO NOT use an article with countries, states, counties or provinces, lakes and mountains except when the country is a collection of states such as "The United States". He lives in Washington near Mount Rainier. They live in northern British Columbia. * Use an article with bodies of water, oceans and seas - My country borders on the Pacific Ocean * DO NOT use an article when you are speaking about things in general I like Russian tea. She likes reading books. * DO NOT use an article when you are speaking about meals, places, and transport He has breakfast at home. I go to university. He comes to work by taxi.
February 17, 2010
There are piles of exceptions to these rules (sorry!). Near where I am, "Gold Coast" is written on maps but always referred to as "THE Gold Coast", even though it's the name of the city. Another is the country "Ukrania", which is English is called "The Ukraine". But don't worry, exceptions like these are rare. ;) The very very short and simple answer is we use 'a/an/the' to mark the nouns. As pointed out above, there are many instances where you do not use an article at all. Learn what you can, find the exceptions as you go. Between having an article or omitting it, I'd add the article to be safe, if you're not sure. True, an unnecessary article sounds like poor grammar, but a missing article sounds like broken English.
February 18, 2010
luciusverus's answer is good. Whole sections of grammar books are devoted to this. One example I might add: 1) "Did you get a dog, yet?" 2) "Yes, I got a collie." 3) "How does the dog behave?" In (1) the speaker is talking about any dog. In (2) 'a' is used because there is more than one collie in the world - it could be any collie. In (3) both people in the conversation know that the dog being referred to is the collie mentioned in (2) - we know which dog now. One slight (maddening) exception to meals. You could say "I had the breakfast at that restaurant across the street." You would use "the" because it is a definite kind of breakfast - the one served at the restaurant. English is confusing, isn't it?
February 17, 2010
Language Skills
English, Korean
Learning Language