§ 186. The article is a form word that serves as a noun determiner. It is one of the main means of conveying the idea of definiteness and indefiniteness.
There are two articles in English: the definite article the [ði:] and the indefinite article a [ei].
Definiteness suggests that the object presented by the following noun is individualized and singled out from all the other objects of the same kind, whereas indefiniteness means a more general reference to an object. Thus when saying The book is a historical novel or The boy has a dog or The telephone is out of order, the speaker treats the objects book, boy, telephone as specific objects, while saying a dog, a historical novel the speaker characterizes the objects in a more general way, pointing out what kind of novel the book is and what kind of pet animal the boy has.
The notion of definiteness/indefiniteness determines the important role of the article in the process of communication. The definite article usually presents the notion as something already known, whereas the indefinite article introduces a new item of information. The presentation of objects as definite or indefinite, as already known or as new, depends on the speaker or the writer, who by using articles establishes mutual understanding between the speaker and the listener, the writer and the reader.
Since the article is a noun determiner and the noun is the headword in a noun phrase, the syntactical role of the article consists in marking off a noun or a noun phrase as part of the sentence.
The morphological value of the article lies in indicating the substantivization of other parts of speech, mainly adjectives or participles (see examples 1 and 2 below), also pronouns (examples 3 and 4), adverbs (example 5), numerals (example 6):
1. More nurses were required to tend the sick and the wounded.
2. Her hair was a bright brown.
3. It wasn’t a he.
4. He is such a nothing.
5 . There is a Beyond.
6. She was only just fifty and looked a handsome thirty-five.
Both articles have originated from notional parts of speech, whose influence may be traced in their meaning and use.
The definite article developed from a demonstrative pronoun, which accounts for its meaning of definiteness. The demonstrative force remains in many phrases, such as at the time, of the kind, in its use before restrictive attributes, and in some situational uses.
The indefinite article developed from the cardinal numeral one, The numerical meaning is evident in such phrases and sentences as at a time, in a moment, wait a minute, not a sound was heard.
The pronunciation of the articles and the spelling of the indefinite article depend upon the initial sound of the following word. The indefinite article is spelled as a before consonant and as an before vowel sounds. When stressed it is pronounced respectively as [eɪ] or [æn]. However, since the articles are usually unstressed, the pronunciation of the indefinite article is generally reduced to the neutral vowel [ǝ] before consonants, and to [ǝn] before vowel sounds, which depends entirely on the pronunciation and not the spelling of the following word, as can be seen in the table below.
The definite article is pronounced as [ði:] when stressed. When unstressed, it is pronounced as [ðǝ] before consonants and [ðɪ] before vowels:
Since the article is the opening element of a noun phrase, it is placed before the noun it refers to or before all the other noun premodifiers. The exceptions to this rule are as follows:
a) the definite article may be preceded by the predeterminers alt and both:
Are you going to cook all the cakes yourself?
Both the answers were good.
b) the indefinite article may be preceded by the predeterminers what, such, quite:
What a sight I am in this hat!
You were such a queen, and I was such a nothing!
You are quite a scholar.
ñ) the indefinite article is placed after adjectives preceded by the adverbs too, as, so:
That was too difficult a problem for the child to solve.
It’s as good an excuse as any for breaking it up.
I’ve never seen so miserable a creature as Jane was at the moment.
The main functions of the indefinite article are classifying, generic and numerical.
§ 187. In its classifying function the article serves to refer an object to the class or group of objects of the same kind.
We saw a speck in the distance. It was a ship.
I am a school teacher.
Somewhere a telephone began to ring.
The door opened and a man entered.
Janet lived alone in a small shabby house.
He was a man I would be glad to spend half my time in hell with.
The noun preceded by the classifying indefinite article may be accompanied by pre- or postmodifying attributes. The indefinite article is used so long as the reference to the class is preserved, as can be seen from the examples below.
I’ve read a novel.
It is a very interesting novel.
It is a novel by a modem writer.
It is a teenager novel about American boys.
It is an exciting novel which is very suitable for staging.
But: It is the novel our teacher mentioned at the last lesson.
* For details see § 192, 198, 201.
The moon rose early.
It was a very pale siver moon.
§ 188. In its generic function the indefinite article implies that the object denoted by the noun is spoken of as a representative of the class, and therefore what is said about the thing, animal, person, or notion mentioned, refers to any object of the same kind, as in:
An oblong has four sides, a triangle has three sides.
A tram runs on rails, a bus does not.
A horse has four legs.
A sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines.
A library is a collection of books.
The noun preceded by the generic indefinite article may be modified by an attribute which restricts the class represented by 515j96cf the object mentioned or narrows the scope of reference, but does not individualize it.
A complex sentence has two or more clauses.
A man who looks after the books in a library is called a librarian.
The indefinite article in its generic function is often used in proverbs and sentences expressing a general truth.
A friend in need is a friend indeed.
An elephant never forgets.
As a man sows, so he shall mow.
With the nouns in the plural in this case no article is used. It should be noted that the generic function of the indefinite article, though akin to the classifying function, is different not only in its meaning, but also in its role in the process of communication. In the majority of cases a noun with the indefinite article in its generic function is the starting point of the utterance, whereas a noun with the indefinite article in its classifying function used as subject or predicative presents a new item of information, which is the most important part of the utterance.
§ 189. In its numerical function the indefinite article retains its original meaning of the cardinal numeral one.
The Indian summer returned for a day.
Of course I won’t say a word.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
A stitch in time saves nine.
The numerical function of the indefinite article is evident with nouns denoting units of measure (time, distance, length, weight, etc.): 60 miles an hour, ten shillings a yard. The wireless had become a ton weight. We walked a mile or two.
The function of the indefinite article is also numerical in noun phrases with an ordinal numeral as premodifier, where the article suggests the meaning one more, another:
In this final chapter, we come to a third way in which one may view these parts of the sentence.
The indefinite article in its numerical function may signal a change in the meaning of a non-count making it a count. Thus an ice-cream, a coffee, a tea, a beer, a whisky, etc. mean a portion of, a glass of, a pint of, etc.:
David has ordered a second whisky.
The three main functions of the indefinite article are interrelated, one of them predominating in the context. Thus in the sentence I’ve bought a new dictionary the function of the article is classifying. The numerical idea is implied, but it is not conspicuous enough. If the speaker is interested in number he must say: I’ve bought one dictionary or I want only one dictionary.
On the other hand when the article is used in its numerical sense, the classifying function coexists with the numerical function. Thus in the proverb An apple a day keeps the doctor away the idea of number (one apple, one day) goes together with the idea of class (a kind of fruit, a unit of time),
In the generic function the ideas of oneness and class are combined, but there is no reference to a specific existing thing, person or notion. If we say A triangle has three sides we mean one triangle and a certain class of geometrical figures, but we do not refer the figure drawn on the blackboard to the class mentioned. To express the latter idea we must say The figure is a triangle. The same applies to the following sentences: I wanted to be a doctor where we deal with a classifying meaning of the article, but A doctor is an intelligent man - with generic.
§ 190. There are a number of set expressions with the indefinite article. In most of them the main functions of the indefinite article can be seen.
at a time
at a glance
as a result (of)
as a whole
to be (to feel) at a loss
to have a mind (to do something)
to have a good time
to have a headache (a toothache, a sore throat)
in a good (evil) hour
in a hurry (but: in haste)
in a fury
in a low voice
in a whisper
It is a pity
It is a pleasure
It is a shame
What a shame!
What a pity!
at a distance of...
(but: in the distance)
at a depth (but: in the depth)
at a speed of...
They were much of a size
Birds of a feather flock together.
many a time (not once, on many occasions)
many a man (not one)
§ 191. The definite article implies that the speaker or the writer presents a person, a thing or an abstract notion as known to the listener or the reader, either from his general knowledge, or from the situation, or from the context. Hence, the two main functions of the definite article are specifying and generic.
§ 192. The definite article in its specifying function serves to single out an object or a group of objects from all the other objects (things, persons, animals, abstract notions) of the same kind. The specification is carried out by means of (1) a restrictive attribute, of (2) the preceding context, (3) the situation or (4) the meaning of the noun.
1) A restrictive attribute is most useful in singling out or individualizing an object (such attributes are also called specifying or limiting). It may be expressed by a single word, a prepositional phrase, a participial phrase, or by a clause, all functioning as postmodifiers.
Somebody moved in the room above.
I’m convinced Davis is the man we are looking for (the very man).
The students in the next room are taking an examination.
That was the end of my first journey into the enchantment of the past.
The man standing by the window is my uncle.
I said nothing to Mr Smith. I think he was already rehearsing the story he would fell to Mrs Smith.
There are also postmodifying attributes which refer the object they modify to a class of similar objects, and in this case they require the indefinite article before the modified noun.
A letter written in pencil is difficult to read.
A letter which is written in pencil is difficult to read.
In like fashion premodifying attributes, especially expressed by adjectives, have either descriptive force in which case they do not influence the use of articles, or a restrictive force due to their meaning. Those are the limiting adjectives very, right, left, wrong, only, one, opposite, last, next (following), the pronominal adjective same, ordinal numerals. Their meaning specifies the object well enough to exclude a possibility of choice or change within a class.
We got into the wrong train.
Are we on the right road?
He is the only man for this position.
Morning light ... touched the opposite seat.
That’s the great Rita. The one and only Rita.
My first job was not a success. But the second job was a sensational success.
Apparent exceptions to the rule are caused by a certain shift in the meaning of premodifiers, which may acquire a new qualitative tinge. Thus an only child means a child who has no brothers or sisters, a first impression or a first attempt has its own qualitative peculiarities, a last look is a farewell look, a second, a third, a tenth means one more, another. In such cases the classifying force of the article prevails. See the examples below, the last of which also suggests reference to a class, namely to the class of books in their first edition.
I haven’t got four brothers. I’m an only son.
Alec turned up as if for a last look at the retreating figure.
It was a good first impression.
What made him spot Boot? It’s a sixth sense
He picked up a first edition of “The Torrents of Spring”.
2) An object or a group of objects may be specified by reference to file preceding context (backward reference). This use of the definite article is qualified as anaphoric. The noun with the definite article may be a mere repetition of the noun mentioned before (see examples a) and b) below); it may be referred to the words or statement just mentioned (ex. c, d), or may be a final statement prompted by the context (e):
a) My wife always had a passion for owls. The passion’s grown since our marriage.
b) Three little kittens lost their mittens ... The three little kittens they found their mittens.
c) ‘My wife has left me.’ Dirk could hardly get the words out.
d) Dainty spoke aloud. The habit was certainly growing.
e) My daughter’s getting married at the week-end, but I don't think I shall go.
—You don’t like the man?
3) One of the most usual ways of singling out an object or a group of objects is situational specification. Though the object is mentioned for the first time, no attribute or context is necessary for the speaker (or the writer) to point it out and for the listener (or the reader) to understand what object is meant.
After visiting a theatre we may say: I liked the acting and I enjoyed the music too. After a flower exhibition: The flowers were splendid. In many everyday situations: Go to the kitchen. Open the door. Pass the butter. Keep off the grass.
When we say Let’s go to the river, depending on the place we live in, it may be the Neva, the Thames, the Amazon, etc. With reference to a certain school we may say: The bell rang and the teacher came in, or Miss , Smith came in.
If the situational reference is not clear enough to the listener, the speaker should employ another specifier as in the following: “Hilary, would you mind if we fixed the day?” “What day?” “The day for me and Crystal to get married.”
4) The definite article in its specifying function is used with unique objects or notions. They are the sun, the moon, the earth, the sea, the world, the universe, the horizon, the equator, the south, the north, the west, the east.
The sun sank below the horizon.
The sky had cleared...
The moon is the heavenly body that moves round the earth.
He sailed round the world.
The use of the definite article with nouns denoting unique objects is similar to the situational use, only unique objects suggest situations on a larger scale. Nouns denoting unique objects are also similar to proper nouns, especially to those originated from common nouns, such as the Tower, the Hermitage, the British Museum.
Though in the majority of cases proper nouns are used without an article, thanks to their origin, various historical processes and traditional usage, there are a number of proper nouns which are preceded by the definite article (for more examples see the list in § 194).
Nouns denoting unique objects may be preceded by the indefinite article in its classifying function when some aspect or phase of the object is meant or the word is used figuratively.
It’s a high sky tonight, big and pale.
The sun shone in an unclouded sky.
Night had fallen and I was guided by a full moon.
She in turn had discovered in Cal Finley a world of which she had never dreamed before.
It has always been a dream of her life.
§ 193. The definite article in its generic function refers the following noun to the whole class of objects of the same kind.
The lion is the king of the animals.
The trout - oh the trout – he’s the real king of fish.
Only the poet or the saint can water an asphalt pavement in the confident anticipations that lilies will
reward his labour.
Since 1925 Mr Warren has made an outstanding contribution to American letters in the fields of
education, poetry, criticism, and the novel.
The generic article suggests a very high degree of abstraction in a count noun, the next stage of abstraction being achieved by the absence of the articles, as with the words man and woman when used in a generic meaning.
Woman is physically weaker than man.
This was more than man can be expected to bear.
Observe the difference between the generic use of the word man without an article (the class as a whole) and the generic use of the same word with the indefinite article (a representative of the class) in this quotation:
Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed, but not defeated.
In many cases either the generic definite or the generic indefinite article may be used. The generic definite article expresses the idea of the whole class, whereas the indefinite article emphasises the idea of any individual’s belonging to the class, e.g. The horse is a domestic animal. A horse is a domestic animal. The generic indefinite article is often preferable when a detailed description follows: A person who prepares somebody else’s writings for a publisher is called the editor. A crane is a large bird with a long neck and beak.
There are certain contexts, however, where the use of the generic indefinite article is logically impossible, as in:
The tiger is in danger of becoming extinct.
The lion is the king of the animals.
The atom was known to the ancient Greeks.
Singular nouns preceded by the generic definite or the generic indefinite article correspond to plural nouns with no article.
The tiger lives in the jungle.
Tigers live in the jungle.
The generic use of the definite article occurs with nouns denoting social classes (both singular and plural forms), for example: the proletariat, the bourgeoisie, the aristocracy, the gentry, the workers, the public, the peasants, the intelligentsia. The same applies to people belonging to some school or movement in literature or art, for example: the romanticists, the impressionists.
The use of the definite article before substantivized adjectives in their collective or abstract meaning is also generic: the poor =- all who are poor, the strong = all who are strong, the obvious = all that is obvious, the beautiful = all who are beautiful or all that is beautiful, beauty:
Take Charley, for example. He has associated with the learned, the gentle, the literate and the reasonable
both in France and America. Three things will never be believed - the true, the probable and the logical.
§ 194. Set expressions with the definite article:
the other day
the day after tomorrow
by the dozen (the score, the hundred)
by the hour
in the morning
in (during) the night
in the afternoon
in the evening
in (the) summer
in (the) springtime
in the singular
in the plural
in the past, in the present
in the future (but: in future = from this time on)
on the whole
out of the question
to pass the time
all the same
just the same
by the by
by the way
to take (seize) smb by the shoulder
(by the arm)
to pull smb by the hair
to kiss smb on the cheek
(on the forehead, etc.)
to be wounded in the knee
(in the arm, etc.)
to keep the house (but: to keep house)
to play the piano (the guitar, etc.)
to tell the truth
to tell the time
§ 195. List of proper nouns regularly used with the definite article.
I. Astronomical names.
The Milky Way, the Great Bear, the Little (Lesser) Bear.
II. Geographical names.
1. The North Pole, the South Pole, the Arctic, etc.
2. Mountain ranges:
the Alps, the Pennines, the Urals. But single mounts take no article.
the Thames, the Hudson, the Amazon, the Rein, the Nile, the Neva, the Danube, etc.
4. Seas and oceans:
the North Sea, the Red Sea, the Black Sea, the Baltic (Sea), the Arctic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the
Pacific (Ocean), etc.
the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal, etc.; also the English Channel.
6. Some countries, areas, provinces:
the USA (the United States of America), the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the Ukraine, the
Crimea, the Caucasus.
the Sahara (Desert), the Gobi (Desert), the Karakum (Desert).
8. Parts of towns:
the West End, the East End, the Soho, the City (of London), the Bronx (in New York).
9. The de facto capital of the Netherlands:
III. Names of public institutions (museums, theatres, hotels, restaurants), unique buildings and monuments:
the Tate (Gallery), the National Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum (Opera), the British Museum, the
Louvre, the Hermitage, the Prado, the Grand (Hotel), the Savoy,the Kremlin, the White House, the
Bronze Horseman, the Sphinx.
IV. Names of vessels:
the Discovery, the Titanic, the Queen Elisabeth, the Dolores, etc.
V. Names of most newspapers (in English-speaking countries):
the Times, the Washington Post, the Canadian Tribune, etc.
§ 196. The absence of any article, which is sometimes referred to as the zero article, is as meaningful as their actual use. It is regularly observed with count nouns in the plural, with non-counts used in a general sense, with proper nouns.
§ 197. The indefinite article has no plural form and thus it cannot be used with nouns in the plural in any of its functions.
The plural form without an article corresponds to the classifying and generic uses of the indefinite article and sometimes to the generic use of the definite article.
Jane is a student.
A dog barks.
A man who has nothing to say has no words.
The tiger lives in the jungle.
Jane and Mary are students.
Men who have nothing to say have no words.
Tigers live in the jungle.
If the idea of number is retained, an indefinite pronoun (some, any, no), adjectives (several, a lot of, many), or a cardinal numeral accompanies the plural noun.
Have you a record teaching English pronunciation?
There grew a cherry-tree once.
Have you any records teaching English pronunciation?
They have some (several, many, ten) records of the kind.
There grew three (some, a lot of) cherry-trees once.
§ 198. Non-count nouns, abstract or material, when used in a general sense, are not preceded by any article, as in:
Time will show who is right.
He has such huge pride.
She said with astonishment, “Where are you, Maurice?”
We walked forward in silence.
They greeted him without enthusiasm.
Premodifiers of abstract non-count nouns do not influence the use of articles, they only restrict the meaning of the noun, as in: history - English history, medieval English history; music - folk music, pop music, classical music; art - modern art, abstract art; weather - nasty weather, fine weather; advice - valuable advice.
He doesn’t love abstract art.
The same refers to material non-counts beautiful silk, Venetian glass, stained glass.
However the indefinite article is used with both kinds of noun if the classifying idea predominates (An English grammar - a kind of it, a soil of it); with words denoting feeling the indefinite article suggests a manifestation of that feeling, with nouns of material a particular kind of the substance mentioned. In contexts of the kind non-counts are usually accompanied by descriptive attributes.
That, sir, was a profound knowledge of man.
He always had a love for the concrete.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t painting with my father standing beside me.
I was no good at football, but does it make an unhappy boyhood?
It is incredible to me that there should be an after life.
She put down the mirror with a feeling of hopelessness.
In nouns which may function as both counts and non-counts the absence of the article indicates a non-count with general meaning, whereas the indefinite article shows that it is a count noun, abstract or concrete.
Compare the meanings in such pairs of nouns as:
Language is a means of communication.
It is always interesting to study a foreign language.
Light is necessary for life.
They saw a light in the distance.
Absence of the article before an originally count noun may suggest a shift in its meaning. Thus in to teach piano (violin) the noun piano means a subject to be taught, just as history, literature, etc., whereas in to play the piano the noun piano denotes a musical instrument with the article in its generic function. In such expressions as to go to school, to be at school the adverbial meaning predominates and the noun loses its nominal quality.
If partition or indefinite amount is meant, it is expressed by an indefinite pronoun (some, any) or a partitive noun (a piece, an item, a bit). With material nouns partitive meaning is also expressed with the help of nouns denoting measure or amount (a cup of tea, a glass of milk, a pint of beer, a slice of bread, a loaf of bread, a spoonful of medicine, a sack of coal, etc.).
All non-counts can be preceded by the definite article in its specifying function. Thus we say the art of the nineteenth century, the music of the Renaissance, the history of England, (but: English history) the history of the Middle Ages, and also: What’s the weather like today? How did you like the music?
Note the difference between English (French, Spanish) literature and the English (French, Spanish) language. Here literature is a non-count, whereas the word language is used as a count noun. The adjectives operate as specifiers restricting the abstract notion of language to one particular language.
Compare also the use of in darkness, in the darkness. The first suggests the state of darkness as such, the second is situationally or contextually determined, as in these two examples: The yard and the lane outside it were in darkness. In the darkness he could discern the figure of the watchman.
§ 199. Proper names point out individual objects. Their individualizing meaning makes the use of an article unnecessary. All proper names of living beings are situationally specified (when we say Tom, Mary, Mrs Brown, Mr Wilson, etc.), for there are hundreds if not thousands of people bearing the same name.
When a proper name is preceded by a modifier no article is used in case the latter denotes a title, relationship, or rank, or if the proper name is accompanied by adjectives which sometimes form part of it: simple Simon, lucky Jim, old Jolyon, young Jolyon, poor Smith, Miss Dodson, Mister Brown, Colonel Pickering, Queen Elisabeth, Professor Jones, President Kennedy, Doctor Manson.
When modified by other adjectives, not commonly used, proper names may take the definite article.
Use of the definite article before proper names
§ 200. The definite article is necessary:
1. When additional specification is needed. This is realized with a restricting attribute, usually formed as an of-phrase or a clause, or with the definite article alone, or a premodifier operating as one:
Gloria at twenty-six was still the Gloria of twenty.
Did Bait understand the England of today?
That’s not the George Lamb I knew.
“You are the Mr Murdstone who married the widow of my late nephew?” said my aunt.
“Why, she’s Sue Courtenay,” Gladys informed her uncle impressively.
“The Sue Courtenay! Why, don’t you know her?”
“Cap’n Kit, that’s my name.” “What? The Captain Kit? O’course I’ve heard of him.”
2. When the specifying premodifier denotes a profession or points out some peculiar feature or temporary state (often expressed by a participle): the playwright Pinter, the painter Reynolds, the electrician Smith, the unsophisticated Kitty, the susceptible Mr Snodgrass, the puzzled Henry, the calculating Becky, the brilliant George Osborne, the offended Soames.
3. Before a group of objects or persons bearing the same name and forming one whole: The Pennines, the Alps, the Rockies, the Urals - a group of mountains, a mountain range; the British Isles, the Philippines, the Canaries, the Hebrides, the Shetlands - a group of islands, an archipelago; the Browns, theTullivers - a family, a clan, as in: the Dobsons were a very respectable family indeed.
The absence of the article before a plural proper name suggests a mere plurality, as in: There are a lot of Wilsons, Browns and Smiths in England.
4. Before proper nouns formed by means of substantivized adjectives: the Pacific (ocean), the Atlantic (ocean), the Mediterranean (Sea), the Argentine (Republic), but Argentina (because it is a proper name).
5. Before nicknames: the Gadfly, the Scout.
Use of the indefinite article before proper names
§ 201. The indefinite article is necessary:
1. When the person mentioned belongs to the family bearing the same name:
Mrs Tulliver had been a Miss Dodson...
No daughter of the house could be indifferent of having been born a Dodson, rather than a Gibson or a
2. When nothing is known about the person mentioned but the name.
This usage corresponds to the Russian word «íåêèé».
There’s a young American girl staying at the hotel. She’s a Miss Render.
3. When an originally proper name comes to be used as a common noun (usually as a result of metonymy or metaphor), as in:
This man doesn’t know a Rubens from a Rembrandt (pictures of these painters).
There is in Gary’s work the naturalness and zest of a Defoe, the generosity of a Fielding (like that of
Defoe, like that of Fielding).
Everybody isn’t a Mary Pickford (a film star like Mary Pickfbrd).
He was a Crusoe with no need to look for footprints in the sand (a man like Crusoe).
‘Have a cigar.’ ‘If it is a real Havana.’
4. When some phase, aspect, or state is meant, whether it refers to a living being or a geographical place:
John was inside, a very different John from the lad he had known seven years ago.
And now here was Gulliver’s girl Barbara, that mournful-eyed waif from an unhappy France.
So at night Castle dreamt of a South Africa reconstructed with hatred.
(Compare with the same use of the indefinite article before unique and non-count nouns.)
§ 202. Absence of the articles in set expressions
at dinner (breakfast, etc.)
at first notice
at first sight
in search of
in spite of
by ship (boat)
out of date
out of order
out of place
out of sight
arm in arm
day after day
day by day
hand in hand
night after night
night by night
a kind of
a sort of
on account of
on condition that
to be in
to go to
from beginning to end
from day to day
from east to west
from head to foot
from morning to (till) night
from side to side
to be at
to go to
to come to
to come from
to be at
to take to
to be at
to go to
in addition to
in (on) behalf of
in care of
in case of
in charge of
in reference to
to be in
to go to
to be at
to put to
to be in
to be out of
to go to
to ask (for) permission
to catch (lose) sight of
to give offence (permission)
to give way to
to keep house (to do housework)
to keep time
to lose touch with
to lose track of
to make fun of
to make use of
to pay attention to
to set fire to
to shake hands with
to take care of
to take notice of
In these set expressions nouns combine with prepositions or verbs and acquire a new shade of meaning, expressing an adverbial relation, a state or a process. Concrete count nouns lose their nominal meaning. Thus He is in bed may mean He is ill, or He is asleep, or He is not up. But we say: There were no chairs enough and we sat on the bed.
My brother goes to school (college) means He learns there. However, if we mean the building or the institution, we use an article according to the general rules, as in: We shall meet at the school. The school isn't far from our home. Ours is a very good school. Parents are regularly invited to the school.
The noun town without an article means the nearest big centre of population as contrasted to the country or a smaller town, it may also denote the central part of a big town, as opposed to its suburbs.
To be at sea may mean "far away from the land" or (figuratively) "to feel puzzled"; to go to sea is "to become a sailor". But we say: The swimmer jumped into the sea. We lived near the sea, etc.
No article is used as a rule when two notions, very closely related, are mentioned, as in:
They looked like mother and daughter.
We are no longer boy and girl.
It’s no use interfering into a quarrel between husband and wife.
§ 203. Notes on the use of nouns denoting time and meals.
Nouns denoting time are treated as abstract nouns bordering on proper names. No article is used with reference to parts of the day or of the year, light or darkness, as in:
Evening came. Night fell. Day broke. We’ll wait till night. Twilight is the faint light just before sunset and
just after sunrise. Winter set in. “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”
It was early morning (late afternoon, Friday morning, Saturday night, etc.).
It was early spring (late autumn, etc.).
They met at noon (at sunset, at midnight).
However articles may occur with such words according to the common usage of the articles in their (a) specifying, (b) generic, (c) classifying or (d) numerical functions.
a) The evening was calm. The winter is severe this year.
The twilight was sad and cloudy.
We stayed at my aunt’s for the night. (òîé íî÷üþ, â òó íî÷ü)
We watched the sunrise from the balcony.
The winter of 1978 was severe.
It happened on the morning of April 12th.
b) Evening is the latest part of the day.
Tell me the four seasons of the year!
c) It was a wonderful day (a hot summer, a warm morning, a gloomy afternoon, a glorious sunrise, etc.).
That was a restless night.
d) I’ll ring you up in a day or two.
When names of meals denote simply an occasion or process of taking food, they are used without an article in phrases and patterns, such as:
to have (take, serve, cook) dinner, breakfast, lunch, supper;
to go to (to be at) dinner, lunch, etc.;
Lunch is at two p.m.
Dinner is ready (served, laid).
What have you bought for lunch (dinner, supper)
What shall we have for supper (dinner)?
An article is used mainly when a formal meal is meant or when the notion referred to is specified or classified.
They gave a dinner (luncheon, supper) in honour of the ambassador (a kind of reception)
The dinner you cooked was beyond all expectations! It was a marvellous dinner.
Note on the use of next and last as noun premodifiers
§ 204. Nouns with these premodifiers are not preceded by any articles when counting from the moment of speaking, as in;
We’ll speak about it next time (next Friday, next month, next spring, next year):
We spoke about it last time (last Friday, last month, etc.).
The definite article occurs when the situation is viewed from some moment in the past or in the future and when the noun is modified by a specifying attribute or attributive clause.
We spent (or: we’ll spend) a week in the Crimea, and the next two weeks in the Caucasus.
The last time I saw Mary she looked a picture of health.
We shall resume our talk the next time I see you.
Omission of the articles
§ 205. The omission of an article differs from the absence of an article in that it is stylistically or traditionally determined. It occurs in cases where economy of expression is required and is often accompanied by other ellipses, such as omission of prepositions, auxiliaries, etc.
1. In newspaper headlines:
‘Girl saw Flame’, ‘CTV is winning Fireside Battle’.
(Cp. the text of the newspaper report that follows the headline: Commercial television is winning the
battle of the fireside.)
2. In telegrams:
Attending cytological congress Rome will stop few days on way love John.
3. In newspaper announcements:
Anna Linden, daughter of a Manchester engineer, made her debut...
4. In stage directions:
At rise of curtain... goes to telephone; stands at door.
5. In reference entries or notes:
See table Taxonomic Classification on following page.
Hellman, Lilian, American dramatist, author of a succession of dramas ...
Use of the articles with nouns in some syntactical functions
§ 206. 1. A noun in the subject position is usually preceded by the definite article in its specifying function, or by either of the articles in their generic function. In these cases the noun denotes some notion forming the starting point of the utterance and therefore is presented as known to both the speaker and the addressee.
The way was long. The wind was cold.
The minstrel was infirm and old.
The indefinite article in its classifying function occurs to express the idea of novelty or unexpectedness, no matter what the position of the subject is:
On the opposite side of the landing a girl was standing.
A girl was standing on the opposite side of the landing.
Such sentences are translated into Russian with inverted word order:
Íà äðóãîé ñòîðîíå ïëîùàäêè ñòîÿëà äåâóøêà.
A similar use of the indefinite article occurs in sentences with the existential construction There is (comes, appears, etc.), as in:
There is an exception to the rule.
2. When used as a predicative the noun is usually preceded by the indefinite article in its classifying function. The position of the predicative is most suitable for the manifestation of the classifying function and for giving some new information:
This is a house.
George is a telephone engineer.
The definite article before a noun in this position suggests the identity of the object expressed by the predicative noun with that expressed by the subject:
This is the house that Jack built.
He is the telephone engineer (the one we have sent for).
The absence of the article before predicative count nouns indicates:
a) that the noun has lost its original meaning and suggests some social position, post or title:
Mrs Mantoffle was president of all sorts of societies and committees.
With this knowledge he can be king.
He was on the programme as assistant stage Manager.
J. F. Kennedy was elected President in I960.
b) that the idea of quality or state predominates over the idea of thingness (usually when the noun is
preceded by ‘more’ or followed by ‘enough’).
Fool, fool that she was to get into such a state.
But you’ll be man enough to tell me the truth.
Randal was in the end more artist than scientist.
3. With the noun functioning as objects any article can be used depending on how the speaker formulates his thought; the indefinite article is preferable after verbs of possession and obligatory in verb-object phrases denoting a single action such as to have a smoke, to give a look, etc.
4. The use of the articles with nouns in the function of an adverbial modifier depends partly on the type of adverbial modifier.
In adverbial modifiers of place the definite article is used in its specifying function to identify the exact place:
Jane is in the garden.
The indefinite article in its classifying function is preferable when the attention is focused on a description of the place rather than on its identification, as in: Crystal lived alone in a small shabby house.
In adverbial modifiers of comparison the indefinite article is preferably used in its classifying function with the generic tinge since comparison is drawn with a representative of the class: e.g. I can read you like a book. It is used also in phraseological combinations as strong as a lion, as hard as a nail, as meek as a mouse, etc.
5. In attributes the indefinite article is used to emphasize the importance and novelty of the notion mentioned. Therefore we find the indefinite article in such phrases as the son of a teacher, the daughter of a doctor, or
a doctor's daughter, it may be paraphrased as Her father is a doctor. She is the daughter of the doctor uggests reference to a definite person known from the situation equal to our doctor, the doctor here.
6. In apposition either of the articles can be used, depending on whether the noun in apposition serves to classify or to identify the notion expressed by the noun:
I've got acquainted with Mr Smith, an architect.
We've got acquainted with Mr Smith, the architect.
There is a substantial difference in the communicative value of the apposition depending on the use of the articles. The indefinite article implies that the listener (reader) does not know anything about the person or thing denoted by the head-noun and requires some new knowledge about it. Here the indefinite article has a classifying function:
Have you ever heard of 'Caesar's Wife', a play by Maugham?
Paul Long, a neighbour of yours, will be visiting us this evening.
The definite article implies that the listener (reader) is supposed to be familiar with the person or thing mentioned from his general knowledge or the situation
I want to speak to Mr Smith, the electrician.
"Hamlet", the tragedy by Shakespeare, has been screened many a time.
Note a restrictive appositions in noun phrases of the kind: the (famous) novelist Gr. Greene, the novel "The Heart of the Matter", the number ten (öèôðà äåñÿòü) (but: page number 10), the noun "story" the letter "e".