Articles (Language and Learning Online)

Articles

This tutorial contains two sections on articles.

Each section includes a 'Language in context' passage, exercises, grammar notes, and a review passage.

You can navigate through the tutorial using the menu on the left, but we suggest you work through each of the sections in the given order.





Using and omitting the indefinite article

Click on the highlighted text for an explanation of use.

Language in context

The Internet, the world's most popular communication medium, is the future for [1][1]data communications. Nowadays, computers can receive TV signals, decode video signals and function as fax machines. Using the computer, it is now much faster to send [2]an email than a letter to a relative overseas. The time taken on the Internet to transfer information from one site to another may be only a few minutes.

But the problem is controlling authorised access to information on the Internet, since messages can be so easily posted around the world. This means that children can get access to pornography. [3]Control of access to the Internet will be a major project for the computer industry. Such control could be achieved by checking the user's ID and age. But what about children who use their parents' account or that of [4]another older relative? These are the problems we have yet to consider.

Student Text

[1]

Communication can be used with both countable and uncountable meanings. Here, it is being used as an uncountable noun with the focus on the process of data communication rather than a particular communication (or message).

Note: Nouns used with an uncountable meaning do not take a, an, or a final s.

Other examples of uncountable nouns are identified in the passage in red: information, access, pornography

The countable form of communication can refer to a letter or other message, or a system of communication. For example:

I refer to your communication of 10th October.

Our records show several communications between the two parties.
The company offers the latest in mobile communications and features.*
The company is a leading manufacturer of data communications.*

*When referring to a system of communication, the plural form is most commonly used, e.g. telecommunications and data communications.

[2]

An a means one. It is used to introduce a singular, countable noun. Other singular, countable nouns in this passage are highlighted in green.

Note that email can also be used in the uncountable sense, for example:

Email is faster than conventional mail.
[3]

Here, control is used with a general, uncountable meaning. Sometimes control is used with a countable meaning. Example:

We need a system of controls to protect children from pornography on the Internet.

Here, controls means a number of measures or barriers or regulations.

[4]

Another is made up of two words: an and other.

Other here means a relative who is not the parent.

Exercise 1 indefinite articles

Select either a, an, or no article from the dropdown box to go with each bold noun.

Comments appear below each.

  1. It is faster to send an email than input letter.


  2. input Information can be transmitted all over the world.


  3. input control of access to the Internet will be a major project.


  4. Everyone who owns input computer can transmit a message.

Exercise 2 indefinite articles

Type a, an, or n (no article) in each box. Then check your answer by clicking on the button Check answers next to each box.

The recent growth in input information technology has made it possible for any personal computer user who signs up with input server and pays input fee to gain input access to the Internet. input information can now be transmitted to or from input site in a few minutes.



Notes on using the indefinite article

Using the indefinite article a or an with singular countable nouns

Using the indefinite article a or an
A or an is used to introduce a singular countable noun.
an email

a letter

a relative

a major project

a computer

Omitting a or an with uncountable nouns

Omitting the indefinite article
A or an is omitted when a noun is used with a general uncountable meaning.
communication

information

access

pornography

control
Example

Some nouns can have both a countable and uncountable meaning *.



Examples
Note: Countable nouns take s in the plural. Note: Nouns with a general uncountable meaning cannot be made plural.
  • We sent emails to our relatives
  • They will undertake several major projects
  • Data communications are now very rapid
  • The technology supports both voice and data communications
  • We correspond by email
  • We need to control access to information on the Internet
  • Data communication is now very rapid

Review indefinite articles

Test yourself. Type either a, an, or n (no article) in each box. Then check your answer by clicking on the button Check answers next to each box.

The Internet, the world's most popular communication medium, is the future for input data communication. Nowadays, computers can receive TV signals, decode video signals and function as fax machines. Using the computer, it is now much faster to send an email than input letter to input relative overseas. The time taken on the Internet to transfer input information from one site to another may be only a few minutes.

But the problem is controlling authorised input access to input information on the Internet, since messages can be so easily posted around the world. This means that children can get input access to input pornography. input Control of input access to the Internet will be input major project for the computer industry. Such input control could be achieved by checking the user's ID and age. But what about children who use their parents' account or that of another older relative? These are the problems we have yet to consider.

Student Text

Using and omitting the definite article

Click on the highlighted text for an explanation of use.

Note: Other general plural nouns in this passage are shown in bold.

Language in context

Passage 1

[1]The Internet, [2]the world's most popular communicaton medium, is [3]the future for data communication. Nowadays, [4]computers can receive TV signals, decode video signals and function as fax machines. Using [5]the computer, it is now much faster to send an email than a letter to a relative overseas. [6]The time taken on [7]the Internet to transfer information from one site to another may be only a few minutes.

But [8]the problem is controlling authorised access to information on [9]the Internet, since messages can be so easily posted around [10]the world. This means that children can get access to pornography. Control of access to [11]the Internet will be a major project for [12]the computer industry. Such control could be achieved by checking [13]the user's ID and age. But what about children who use their parents' account or that of another older relative? These are [14]the problems we have yet to consider.

Student Text

Passage 2

[15]Rapid changes in [16]the global market have influenced [17]the development of management accounting. How does [18]the role of management accounting differ from [19]the past? [20]Traditional management accounting practices assumed a simple model of cost behaviour. This is no longer viable in [21]the present competitive business environment of rapid economic changes, where consumer tastes are constantly changing, causing rapid changes in costs and [22]the need for innovative manufacturing processes. Consequently, current management accounting practices need to respond to [23]the increasing complexity of business operations as they attempt to embrace a rapidly changing and highly competitive global marketplace. This report will discuss some of [24]the changes which have occurred in [25]the marketplace and will suggest suitable management accounting practices as a response to such changes. Further, recommendations will be made on [26]the basis of this discussion.

(From: P.V. Cotesta, G.M. Crosling and H.M. Murphy, Writing for Accounting Students, 1998, Butterworths, Australia, pp. 26-27.)

[1] The can mean the only one, and is used to indicate that something is unique. Another example is the World Wide Web.
[2] The is used with things known to everyone. Other examples are the sun, the sky, the moon.
[3] The is used with time expressions. Other examples are: the present, the past, the 1990s.
[4]

There is no definite article here because the writer is describing computers in general rather than one particular computer or the computer as an invention

Note:

Other general plural nouns in this passage are highlighted in pink: TV signals, video signals, fax machines, messages, children

[5] The is often used in science and technology with widely known inventions. Other examples are: the microchip and the telescope.
[6]This is a shorter way of writing the time which is taken. The noun takes the definite article because we are told which/what time?
[7] The can mean the only one and is used to indicate that something is unique. Another example is the World Wide Web.
[8]There are unstated words which make the noun definite. The problem could mean: the problem which we must address or the problem with regard to the Internet.
[9] The can mean the only one and is used to indicate that something is unique. Another example is the World Wide Web.
[10] The is used with things known to everyone. Other examples are the sun, the sky, the moon.
[11] The can mean the only one and is used to indicate that something is unique. Another example is the World Wide Web.
[12]This describes a particular type of industry.
[13]There are unstated words here which make the noun definite. The user could mean: the user of the Internet.
[14]The noun takes the definite article because we are told what/which problems. The answer is: the problems we have yet to consider.
[15]There is no definite article here because the writer is generalising about rapid global changes rather than pointing to specific changes.
[16] The may mean the only one. Here, the world is described as a single market
[17]In this sentence, development takes the definite article the because it is used in a specific sense. We are told what kind of development.

Here it is the development of management accounting.
[18]In this sentence, role takes the definite article the because it is used in a specific sense. We are told which role.

Here it is the role of management accounting.
[19] The is used with time expressions. Other examples are: the present, the future, and the 1990s.
[20]

There is no definite article with this noun phrase. The writer is generalising about a number of management accounting practices rather than pointing to specific practices.

Note: The same explanation applies to all the nouns / noun phrases displayed in pink within this passage.

[21]In this sentence environment takes the definite article the because it is used in a specific sense. We are told which environment.

Here it is the present competitive business environment.
[22]Here, we have an answer to the question: the need for what.

The need is for innovative manufacturing processes.
[23]Here, we have an answer to the question: the increasing complexity of what.

The answer is of business operations.
[24]Here we are given an answer to the question: What changes?

The answer is: the changes which have occurred in the marketplace.
[25] The can mean the only one. Here, the marketplace means the single world market.
[26]Here, we are given an answer to the question: the basis of what

The answer is: the basis of this discussion.

Exercise 1 definite articles

Select either the or no article from the dropdown box in front of each bold noun.

Comments appear below each.

  1. input fax machine has speeded up inter-office communication.
  2. Fax machines have replaced input letters for most daily business transactions.
  3. input problem of controlling access to the Internet needs to be addressed.
  4. Control of access to the Internet poses input problems.

Exercise 2 definite articles

Type the or n (no article) in each box. Then check your answer by clicking on the button Check answers next to each box.

Nowadays, input Internet users have access to information from around input world. input messages can be sent almost instantaneously through input Web and this poses input problem of controlling authorised access to information in order to protect input children.



Exercise 3 definite articles

Select either the or no article from the dropdown box to in front of each bold noun.

Comments appear below each. You can also view/print all answers at any time.

  1. The report will discuss input marketplace changes.
  2. The report will discuss some of input changes which have occurred.
  3. The speakers discussed input social problems.
  4. The speakers discussed input problem of unemployment.
  5. The speaker warned of input declining living standards.
  6. The speaker warned of input declining living standards of rural families.

Exercise 4 definite articles

Type the or n (no article) in each box. Then check your answer by clicking on the button Check answers next to each box.

  1. With input growth of global trade, many companies need input foreign currencies to pay input producers in other countries.
  2. input London-based International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) is an independent group of input professional accounting organisations from 85 countries, formed in 1973 with input objective of achieving uniformity in input accounting standards.

Grammar notes

Using or omitting the definite article the

You may prefer to work from a printed copy of these grammar notes

The may be used when the noun or noun phrase is specific, i.e. when there is an answer to the question 'which?' or 'what?' The may be omitted when a plural noun or noun phrase is used in a general (indefinite) sense.
  • the time (which is) taken
  • the problem (which we must address)
  • the problems (which) we have yet to consider
  • the computer industry


Note: The words in brackets above are unstated but assumed to be understood by the reader.
  • computers
  • video signals
  • TV signals
  • fax machines
  • messages
  • children

The is also used in the following cases

The is used with time expressions
  • the past
  • the present
  • the future
  • the 1990s
Things that are unique
  • the internet
  • the Web
Things known to everyone
  • the world
  • the sun
  • the stars
Widely known inventions
  • the computer
  • the telescope
  • the microchip
The may be used when the noun or noun phrase is specific, i.e. when there is an answer to the question: 'which?' or 'what?' The may be omitted when a plural noun or noun phrase is used in a general (indefinite) sense.
  • the development of management accounting
  • the role of management
  • the changes which have occurred
  • the basis of this discussion
  • traditional management-accounting practices
  • business operations
  • rapid economic changes
  • recommendations
  • costs
Examples
Examples
The may be used when writing of something as a single entity The may be omitted when describing the parts that make up that entity
  • the global marketplace
  • the marketplace
  • global markets
  • markets
Examples

Review the definite article

Test yourself. Type either the or n (no article) in each box. Then check your answer by clicking on the button Check answers next to each box.

Rapid changes in input global market have influenced input development of management accounting. How does input role of management accounting differ from input past? input Traditional management accounting practices assumed a simple model of cost behavior. This is no longer viable in input present competitive business environment of rapid economic changes, where input consumer tastes are constantly changing, causing input rapid changes in costs and input need for innovative manufacturing processes. Consequently, current management accounting practices need to respond to input increasing complexity of business operations as they attempt to embrace a rapidly changing and highly competitive global marketplace. This report will discuss some of input changes which have occurred in input marketplace and will suggest input suitable management accounting practices as a response to such changes. Further, recommendations will be made on input basis of this discussion.

(From: P.V. Cotesta, G.M. Crosling and H.M. Murphy, Writing for Accounting Students, 1998, Butterworths, Australia, pp. 26-27.)

More examples

If you have completed the Language and Learning Online grammar tutorial on articles, you may find it useful to explore more examples of articles in use.

To search for examples of language use, you can use a web concordancer. The Virtual Language Centre (VLC) Hong Kong Opens in a new window <vlc.polyu.edu.hk> has a very user-friendly concordancer, as well as a number of other language learning materials you may wish to explore.

Remember, you can print out the grammar notes on article use from this tutorial before you begin to investigate more examples.

Before proceeding, you may find it useful to print this worksheet for future reference.

What to search for

You could begin by searching for some of the nouns that appear in the tutorial on articles <www.monash.edu.au/lls/llonline/grammar/articles/2.xml>

From Language in context passage 1

Internet; world; medium; future; communication; computer; signal; machine; computer; email; letter; relative; time; information; site; minute; problem; access; message; child; control; project; industry; user; ID; age; parent; account.

From Language in context passage 2

change; market; development; accounting; role; past; practice; model; behaviour; environment; taste; cost; need; process; complexity; operation; marketplace; report; response; recommendation; basis; discussion.

As well, you may wish to use the web concordancer to investigate examples and patterns of article use or non-use with other nouns in their different contexts.

Or, you could use the concordancer to explore the meanings and use of other words or phrases that you would like to become more familiar with.

How to access and use the web concordancer

  1. Go to the Virtual Language Centre (VLC) Hong Kong Opens in a new window <vlc.polyu.edu.hk>
  2. Select the Web Concordancer link on the homepage.
  3. On the next page, select Simple Search under English.
  4. On the next page:
  5. On the next page you can

How to examine the concordance examples

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