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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 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 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. 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 another older relative? These are the problems we have yet to consider.

Student Text

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.

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.

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.

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

Other here means a relative who is not the parent.

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