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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 windowhas 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

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
  2. Select the Web Concordancer link on the homepage.
  3. On the next page, select Simple Search under English.
  4. On the next page:
    • Type in your search word in the blank box (the singular noun form).
    • Select equal to for exact matches (i.e., only singular forms), or contains to bring up both singular and plural forms.
    • Select a corpus. (If you are investigating nouns from the articles tutorial, you may find the Computing or Business and Economics corpus files most relevant for your purposes. You can search other files later if you wish to explore more examples.)
    • Select Sort Left. (This will group the examples with common articles preceding the noun, and will enable easier comparison of the patterns of usage.)
    • Leave other settings as default.
    • Click on Search for concordances.
  5. On the next page you can
    • Study the list of one-line examples containing the search word.
    • Link to Lexicon entries(dictionary definitions and grammatical descriptions) at the bottom of that page.
    • Double-click on a concordance line if you wish to see the full context of a one-line example.
    • You may wish to experiment with other setting options as you become more familiar with the concordancer.

How to examine the concordance examples

  • Look at examples of the same word used with different articles or no article. Try to work out why a particular article was used or why no article was used. Try to work out how the use of different articles affects the meaning. (Consider whether the reference is definite or indefinite, specific or general, singular or plural, countable or uncountable).
  • If a word appears without an article in the singular form, you can safely assume that it is being used in an uncountable sense to talk about something in general. Can you find some examples?
  • Uncountable nouns cannot take a/an and cannot be made plural, but they can take the to indicate a specific reference. Can you find some examples?
  • Some uncountable nouns can also be used in a countable sense, that is, they can take a/an and can be made plural. Can you find any examples?
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