Articles

A / an = the indefinite article The = the definite article

Articles are classified as determiners. These are used to add detail to the noun that comes after them, such as quantity and whether the subject is new or already known.

In general, singular countable nouns in English must have a determiner. Many of the concepts of the English determiner system do not exist in Chinese and therefore require effort and study to master.

Here are some basic rules:

When to Use the Indefinite Article a/ an


For a first reference/ mention of a noun (not a name /proper name) in conversation or writing:
  • A Hong Kong Student has won a prize.

In definitions:

  • A language has been defined as a dialect with an army and a navy.

To refer to professions:

  • His dad is a plumber and his mum is a housewife.

To refer to quantity as a substitute for ‘one’:

  • I got an A, two Bs and a C in my A-levels

When to Use the Definite Article - The

Use the definite article :

for a specific reference to noun that has already been mentioned:

  • That is the girl that I met in the bar last night.

For a specific reference to something the reader/ listener knows:

  • Let’s meet the guys and have lunch in the canteen.

For superlatives , unique objects, and location

  • Muhammad Ali was the greatest boxer ever.
  • Not many people still believe the moon is made of cheese
  • Who is the man at the back on the left?

To refer to classes /types of animal or people:

  • The rose is considered the most romantic of flowers.
  • The English are often considered standoffish.

The following places:

  • The sea / the sky/ the countryside / the ground
  • Time expressions such as :  The morning, the weekend

Public places and institutions:

  • The doctor’s / the library / the science museum / the cinema

Many titles of newspapers and magazines:

  • The Sunday Times / The economist

Rivers, seas, oceans, island groups, mountain ranges

  • The Pacific/ The Nile / The Himalayas / The Philippines / The USA / The UAE

Task One
The sentences below contain article errors. In the spaces provided, re-type the sentences with correct article usage. When you have finished click on the 'Check' button to reveal the correct answers.

1.Have you been to new computer shop on the Nathan Road?
 


Your answer:

Answer:
Have you been to the new computer shop on the Nathan Road?
  
2. I’m reading the interesting book at the moment. Book’s about a life story of Li Ka Shing.
 


Your answer:

Answer:
I’m reading an interesting book at the moment. The book’s about the life story of Li Ka Shing.
  
3. I got married on fifteenth of July. Later I realized I had made worst mistake of my life.
 


Your answer:

Answer:
I got married on the fifteenth of July. Later I realized I had made the worst mistake of my life.
  
4. Please open assessment paper. Write your name and date at a top of a page one.
 


Your answer:

Answer:
Please open the assessment paper. Write your name and the date at the top of a page one.
  
5. There’s disco in centre of the Tsim Sha Tsui that has a best DJ in Hong Kong.
 


Your answer:

Answer:
There’s a disco in the centre of Tsim Sha Tsui that has the best DJ in Hong Kong.
  
6. I’ve got three pets, dog, cat and snake. I love a snake because he chases a dog and cat all over house.
 


Your answer:

Answer:
I’ve got three pets, a dog, a cat and a snake. I love the snake because he chases the dog and the cat all over the house.
  
7. I’m taking Kung-fu class. Teacher is excellent and I’m best in class.
 


Your answer:

Answer:
I’m taking a Kung-fu class. The teacher is excellent and I’m the best in the class.
  
8. The religion is ridiculous. I don’t go to the church. I’ve only been inside church once, for the wedding.
 


Your answer:

Answer:
Religion is ridiculous. I don’t go to church. I’ve only been inside a church once, for a wedding.
  
9. After graduating from the PolyU, the Winnie got job at the McDonald’s. Job satisfaction of working in the McDonald’s was the higher than being the student.
 


Your answer:

Answer:
After graduating from PolyU, Winnie got job at McDonald’s. The job satisfaction of working in McDonald’s was higher than being a student.
  
10. When I was walking along the Nathan Road on my way to History Museum I found the five hundred dollar note on a pavement.
 


Your answer:

Answer:

When I was walking along Nathan Road on my way to the History Museum I found a five hundred dollar note on the pavement.

  
11. I met the man from FBI when I was staying in the guest House in the New York.
 


Your answer:

Answer:
I met a man from the FBI when I was staying in a guest House in New York.
  
12. I want to theatre last night with the friend from PolyU. We saw movie about a Cultural Revolution.
 


Your answer:

Answer:
I want to the theatre last night with a friend from PolyU. We saw a movie about the Cultural Revolution.
  
13. Her aunt is lawyer. She lives in small house in south of the Lantau Island.
 


Your answer:

Answer:
Her aunt is a lawyer. She lives in a small house in the south of Lantau Island.
  
14. The last summer I went on safari in the Kenya. This year, in a summer I’m going fishing on the Lake Victoria.
 


Your answer:

Answer:
Last summer I went on safari in Kenya. This year, in the summer I’m going fishing on Lake Victoria.

When to use ‘The’ and when to leave it out for things in general.
Students often make article errors when talking about ‘things in general’. When talking generally about things the article tends not to be used.

Hong Kong citizens love the mobile phones
People are generally polite in Hong Kong (not The people)

Task 2

Read the following passage about Hong Kong’s Tutor Kings and Queens and insert The if it is necessary into the spaces (1) – (10). After you have done that, listen to the recording and see if you were right. Click on the Answers Button below for explanations of the correct answers after you have listened.

Listen to the recording : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20496462

Feedback

1. (x) Hong Kong is  a country name that contains no definite article.  For further information on country name and use of articles go to the following link http://elc.polyu.edu.hk/cill/exercises/Articles_Geography.aspx

2. (The) Here we are referring to a particular city, Hong Kong, previously mentioned.

3. (The) Here we are referring back to particular teachers, employed by Richard

4. (x) Here we are talking about a general concept or idea – ‘university’.  The same applies to hospital, college, church, prison or university

5. (The) Here , ‘glitzy  marketing’  refers to the particular type of marketing associated with Mia’s job.

6. (x) in town’ is a fixed expression in English, part of a group of expression where the article is dropped after a preposition (others are at lunch, for breakfast, on foot)

7. (The) Here, we are talking about particular exams for entering university, e.g. The Secondary Diploma exams.

8. (x) Here, we are talking about degree courses in general.

9. (The) Here we are referring to the particular tutors who work in these kinds of centres.

10. (The) Here, the speaker is referring to the particular school that a student taking extra lessons might be going to.


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