ENGLISHMain English Grammar

Usage of Articles

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ARTICLES ‘A/AN’ and ‘THE’

INTRODUCTION
We have two articles A/AN and THE. They come before nouns only. ‘A’ or ‘AN’ is called the indefinite article, because it usually leaves the person or thing spoken of indefinite; as in: I met a doctor. — means any doctor; not any specific one. ‘THE’ is called the definite article, because it normally indicates some particular/specific person or thing; as in: I saw the doctor yesterday. — means some particular/specific doctor.

We use ‘A’ before a word beginning with a consonant, or a vowel giving a consonant sound; e.g.

a) a boy, a cup , a doctor, a table (all words begin with a consonant)
b) a university, a uniform, a unique person (here vowel ‘U’ is giving sound of a consonant i.e. ‘YU’).
c) a European (here vowel ‘E’ is giving sound of a consonant i.e. ‘YU’)
d) a one-eyed man (here vowel ‘O’ is giving sound of a consonant ‘WA’)

We use ‘AN’ before a word beginning with a vowel giving vowel sound or a word beginning with a mute (not pronounced) ‘H’; or abbreviations spoken with a vowel sound; e.g.

a) an orange, an island, an under pass (words beginning with a vowel and giving vowel sound)
b) an hour, an heir (words beginning with the consonant ‘H’ but here ‘H’ is mq1ute)
c) An M.L.A. (the letter ‘M’ though a consonant, giving sound of a vowel i.e. ‘EM’)

NOTE-I: HOTEL and HISTORICAL take the article ‘A’; not ‘AN’ as ‘H’ here is not mute.

NOTE-II: YEAR takes the vowel ‘A’; not ‘AN’ as its pronunciation is ‘yeear’, not ‘eear’.

1. USE of A/AN

A) Before a singular countable noun when mentioned for the first time and represents no particular person or thing; e.g.

a) I have a car.
b) We own a flat in Delhi.
c) He is eating an apple.

NOTE-I: But when a singular countable noun is mentioned for a second time, it takes the article THE as it becomes definite then; e.g.

We bought a car from a showroom yesterday; the showroom is in Haryana.

NOTE-II: We also use A/AN if a verb works as a noun in a sentence; e.g.

a) Both of us go for a walk in the morning.
b) I’ll have a talk with him about this.
c) My boss usually goes for a ride.

B) Before a singular countable noun representing the whole class of things; e.g.

a) A house must be cleaned every day. (here house means all houses)
b) A cow is a useful animal. (here cow means all cows)

NOTE: Use of the article THE also is equally correct in this sense; e.g.

A house must be cleaned every day.
= The house must be cleaned every day.

C) Before a proper noun used in the vague sense (not clear sense); e.g.

A Kishore Kumar is being interrogated by the CBI.

[KISHORE KUMAR is a proper noun and hence should not take an article; but here it is referring to a certain person KISHORE KUMAR whom we don’t know—-means the sense is vague, not clear.]

D) We can place ‘A’ also before Mr/Mrs/Miss + SURNAME in some circumstances; e.g.

I met a Mr Gupta in the market today.

[means ‘a man called Gupta’. It implies that he was a stranger to me. Mr Gupta, without ‘A’, implies that the speaker knows Mr Gupta or knows his existence. You can replace ‘A’ by ‘SOME’ here.

E) Before proper nouns to make them common nouns; e.g.

a) A Daniel come to judgment. (A Daniel = a very wise man—-The person DANIEL is considered to be extremely wise)
b) He is a Premchand. (a writer like Premchand)
c) Muzaffarpur is a mini Patna. (a city like Patna)

NOTE: We can also make such a formation in the plural. In that case such a noun does  not take any article; e.g.

They are Shakespeares. (authors like Shakespeare)

F) We can also use A/AN instead of PER; e.g.

a) The average coverage of my bike is 45 kilometers a litre.
b) My salary is 50,000 rupees a month.
c) This bus runs at 45 kilometers an hour.

G) With certain numbers

a) a hundred
b) a thousand

H) Before HALF when HALF follows a whole number; as,

a) 1-1/2 kilos = one and a half kilos; or a kilo and a half (you see 1 is whole number). But 1/2 kg = half a kilo (no ‘A’ before half); though ‘a + half + noun’ is sometimes possible; as, a half-holiday, a half-portion, a half-share

b) With 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, etc ‘A’ is usual; e.g. a third, a quarter, a fifth, etc; but ‘ONE’ is also possible here, and hence we can say one third, one fourth, one fifth, etc.

I) LONG TIME and LAST TIME

With LONG TIME we use the article ‘A’, means we say A LONG TIME AGO; e.g.

INCORRECT: The speech took long time.
CORRECT: The speech took a long time.

INCORRECT: Long time ago there was a king named Sudanshu.
CORRECT: A long time ago there was a king named Sudanshu.

With LAST TIME we use the article ‘THE’, means we say THE LAST TIME. THE LAST TIME refers to a particular occasion; e.g.

INCORRECT: Last time we met you promised to take me to the zoo.
CORRECT: The last time we met you promised to take me to the zoo.

J) In exclamations before singular countable nouns; as,

a) Such a high tower!
b) What a beautiful woman!
c) How tall a girl!
d) How fine an evening!

K) When words MANY, RATHER, QUITE and SUCH are following a singular countable noun, we use A/AN after them; e.g.

a) It’s rather a difficult book.
b) It was quite a warm day.
c) Many a player has come to take part in the competition.
d) Yours was such a foolish decision.

L) In certain phrases we use the article A/AN. Some of such phrases are:

In a hurry Tell a lie In a fix In a nutshell
Make a noise Keep a secret As a rule A stone’s throw
A pity A short while ago At a loss Take a fancy to
Take an interest Take a liking to

IN A FIX = in a difficult or embarrassing situation; e.g. I was really in a fix when I missed the plane. IN A NUTSHELL = in the fewest possible words; e.g. She put the matter in a nutshell. A STONE’s THROW = a very short distance; e.g. The apartment is just a stone’s throw from the sea. A PITY = used for saying that you are disappointed about something; e.g. It’s a pity we couldn’t stay longer in England. TAKE A FANCY TO = to start liking someone or wanting something very much; e.g. I think Richa has taken a fancy to you.

2. A/AN and ONE

For time, distance, weight, etc. we can use either A/AN or ONE for the singular; e.g.

Re1 = a rupee or one rupee

NOTE-I: However, we cannot replace ‘A’ before WEEK, MONTH, etc. by ONE; e.g.

INCORRECT: The rent of this room is Rs 2,000 one week.
CORRECT: The rent of this room is Rs 2,000 a week.

NOTE-II: We say ‘from one … to another’ (NOT ‘from a/an … to another’); e.g.

INCORRECT: Without a car, it takes a long time to get from a place to another.
CORRECT: Without a car, it takes a long time to get from one place to another.

3. USE OF ‘THE’

A) When a thing or groups of things is unique

the earth, the sea, the sky, the equator, the stars, the sun, the ocean, the world, the universe, the Pole Star, the North Pole, etc.

B) Before a noun which can represent only one particular thing

a) Let’s go to THE PARK. (here we are talking about a specific park i.e. the speaker and listener both know which park to go)
b) Rita is in THE GARDEN. (means the garden of her house or any other that both the speaker and listener know)

C) A noun when mentioned for a second time, takes the article THE as it becomes definite then; e.g.

a) We bought a car from a showroom yesterday; the showroom situates in Haryana.
b) Once upon a time, there lived a king. The king was very kind.

D) Before a noun made definite by the addition of a phrase or clause

a) The girl in blue is my sister. (IN BLUE is a phrase which has made the girl specific)
b) The boy that I met is a tennis player. (THAT I MET is a clause which has made the boy specific)

E) When something is bought/sold at a particular unit

a) Rice is sold by THE KILO.
b) Gold is sold by THE GRAM.
c) Petrol is sold by THE LITRE.

F) Before superlative degrees

a) THE DARKEST cloud has a silver lining.
b) This is THE BEST book of English grammar.

NOTE-I: The superlative with MOST is sometimes used where there is no idea of comparison, but mere a desire to indicate the possession of a quality in a very high degree. In such a case we don’t use THE before MOST; e.g.

a) This is MOST fortunate. (You see there is no comparison here; rather we are saying that the event is very unfortunate.)
b) It was A MOST beautiful sight.

NOTE-II: When MOST means IN A BIG QUANTITY/NUMBER we do not use any article before it; e.g.

a) MOST hospitals are in a poor condition here.
b) MOST of the injured persons are out of danger.

NOTE-III: THE is not used with superlative degrees when we compare the same person or thing in different situations; e.g.

She looks cutest in this frock. (not THE CUTEST)

G) Before ordinal numbers such as first, second, third, etc. when used as adjectives or pronouns

a) He was the first man to come to the party. (FIRST is adjective of the noun MAN)
b) The fifth chapter of the book is very interesting. (FIFTH is adjective of the noun CHAPTER)
c) The first will be awarded with a beautiful watch. (FIRST is pronoun for the noun referring to the person standing first)

NOTE-I: If NEXT or LAST is used before time expressions such as WEEK, MONTH, YEAR, MONDAY, JUNE, etc. we don’t generally use THE before them; e.g.

a) She came here LAST WEEK.
b) They will come here NEXT MONTH.

NOTE-II: In some (not all) idiomatic usage too we don’t use THE before ordinal number; e.g.

At first, At last

NOTE-III: In perfect or perfect continuous tenses we don’t use THE before LAST if it refers to POINT OF TIME; we use THE before LAST if it refers to PERIOD OF TIME; e.g.

a) I have been here SINCE LAST WEEK. (means a point in time about seven days ago)
b) I have been here FOR THE LAST WEEK. (means the period of seven days just completed)

H) The word ONLY

The only way to succeed is hard practice.

I) THE + SINGULAR NOUN represents a whole class of animals or things

a) The cow is a useful animal. (means all cows); OR we can say COWS ARE USEFUL ANIMALS.
b) The politician does not always work for the welfare of the society.
c) The small shopkeeper is finding life increasingly difficult.

NOTE-I: But MAN and WOMAN used to represent the human race has no article; e.g.

a) Man is still far more intelligent than the smartest robot.
b) Man is rapidly destroying the earth by cutting trees.
c) This is one of the most dangerous substances known to man.
d) WOMAN is more sensitive than MAN.

NOTE-II: THE + SINGULAR NOUN as used above takes a singular verb. The pronoun used for such a word/phrase is HE, SHE or IT; e.g.

The poor student is not always able to take coaching, so he suffers.

J) THE + ADJECTIVES

If THE is placed in front of an adjective describing the human character or condition, it represents the class of persons. Some of these adjectives are:

Blind Deaf Disabled Healthy Sick Living
Rich Poor Unemployed Old Young Dead

NOTE-I: When used like this the expressions have a plural meaning; they take a plural verb and the pronoun for them is THEY.

a) The poor GET poorer, the rich GET richer.
b) The city government has made a good provision for the disabled this year.

INCORRECT: This government hospital is not suitable for the sick. He is made to purchase medicines from the market many a time.
CORRECT: This government hospital is not suitable for the sick. They are made to purchase medicines from the market many a time.

NOTE-II: We use THE in the same way with national adjectives that end in CH, SH, SE or SS; e.g.

the Dutch, the Spanish, the Welsh, the Burmese, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Swiss. They can also have a singular meaning; e.g.

The mother tongue of the English is English.

COMPARE:
1. The Japanese normally are very hard working. (plural meaning)
2. The Japanese I met on the way to my office was really a nice person. (singular meaning)

NOTE-III: THE + ADJECTIVE refers to a group of people considered in a general sense only. If we wish to a particular group, we must add a noun; e.g.

INCORRECT: The sick of our school are immediately taken to a doctor.
CORRECT: The sick students of our school are immediately taken to a doctor.

NOTE-IV: We can also use THE + COULOR in the plural to represent people but these take ‘S’ like nouns; e.g.

The blacks usually are very strong. (means people of black skin, like that of the African countries)

NOTE-V: THE + ADJECTIVE such as ‘The accused’, ‘The unexpected’ can sometimes have a singular meaning; e.g.

The accused of the murder case has fled.

K) Use of THE with Proper Nouns
Normally we don’t use an article in front of a proper name, however, we use THE before certain proper names. They are:

i) oceans, seas, bays, gulfs

the Pacific; the Atlantic Ocean; the Black Sea; the Dead Sea, the Arabian sea, the Bay of Bengal; the Bay of Biscay; the Gulf of Mexico

NOTE: But when such a noun is at the end we don’t use article THE; e.g.

Hudson Bay

ii) rivers, canals

the Ganga; the Nile, the Thames, the Suez Canal; the Sharda Canal

iii) deserts, regions, groups of islands, chains of mountains

the Sahara or the Desert of Sahara; the Thar, the Azores, the West Indies; the Andamans; the Nicobars; the East Indies; the Phillipines, the Himalayas; the Alps; the Eastern Ghats

NOTE-I: When an island name is alone (not a group) we don’t use article THE; e.g.

Ceylon; Sicily; Java; Sumatra

NOTE-II: But we don’t use article THE before a name of any mountain or mountain peak; e.g.

Mount Everest; Kanchinjunga; Nanda Devi; Dhaulagiri

iv) plural names of countries, and names of countries which include words like STATE, UNION, REPUBLIC and KINGDOM

the Netherlands, the Philippines, the Irish Republic; the United Kingdom; the USA; the Republic of the Sudan; the People’s Republic of China

INCORRECT: This is my second visit to UK.
CORRECT: This is my second visit to the UK.

v) nationality words when referring as plurals

the Indians; the Chinese; the English; the French

vi) the names of religious books

the Purana, the Iliad; the Ramayana; the Geeta, the Mahabharta, the Holy Bible, the Odyssey, etc.

NOTE: But we don’t use THE when the author’s name is prefixed to the name of the book; e.g.

Homer’s Iliad; Valmiki’s Ramayana

vii) Before the names of political parties

the Congress Party, the Bhaartiya Janta Party, the Janta Dal, the B.S.P

viii) before a proper noun when it is qualified/described by an adjective or a defining adjectival clause

a) the great Caesar (the proper noun CAESAR is qualified by the adjective GREAT)
b) the immortal Shakespeare (the proper noun SHAKESPEARE is qualified by the adjective IMMORTAL)
c) The Mr Roy whom you met yesterday is my uncle. (the proper noun Mr ROY is qualified by the defining adjectival clause WHOM YOU MET YESTERDAY)

NOTE: But, if a proper noun is preceded by KING, QUEEN, SAINT, POPE, etc., it does not take THE.

KING Henry, QUEEN Victoria, POPE John, SAINT Paul

ix) Before a name of a person/thing if it is used to completely compare the qualities of another person/thing

INCORRECT: Kalidas was Shakespeare of India.
CORRECT: Kalidas was the Shakespeare of India.

INCORRECT: She is Lata Mangeshkar of Rajasthan.
CORRECT: She is the Lata Mangeshkar of Rajasthan.

INCORRECT: Mumbai is London of India.
CORRECT: Mumbai is the London of India.

x) If there are two or more persons in the same name, we use THE before that name to distinguish one from the another(s)

Call the Shyam of class-X.

xi) Before a name of a museum or library, hotel, restaurants, theater, and club

the British Museum, the Patna Museum, the British Library, the Apsara, the Lions Club, the Grand Hotel, the Samrat International, the Taj, the Hilton, the Mandarin, the Sheraton

But names which have a possessive form do not take THE; e.g.

His Delhi club (not THE HIS DELHI CLUB)

xii) Before other proper names consisting of ADJECTIVE + NOUN; or NOUN + OF + NOUN

a) the National Gallery (NATIONAL is adjective and GALLERY is noun)
b) the TOWER of London (TOWER and LONDON both are nouns)
c) the BAY of Bengal, the Gulf of Mexico, the Cape of Good Hope, the UNITED States of America

xiii) Before names of newspapers

the The Times of India, the Navbharat Times

xiv) Before names of choirs, orchestra, and pop groups

L) THE is used before geographical directions, and words referring to physical environment

the east; the west; the north; the south, the country; the rain; the fog; the future; the town; the wind; the weather; the universe; the sea; the mountains; the night; the sunshine; the seaside

NOTE-I: We also use THE before adjectives EAST/WEST etc. + NOUN in certain names

the East/West End, the East/West Indies. The North/South Pole

[But when it’s the name of a country after EAST/WEST, etc. the article THE is normally omitted; e.g. South Africa, North America, West Germany]

NOTE-II: Note that WEST INDIES is not a name of a country, rather it’s a group of some islands.

NOTE-III: THE, however, is used before EAST/WEST, etc. when these word are nouns; e.g.

the north of Spain, the West (geographical), the Middle East, The WEST (political)

COMPARE:
a) Go north (here NORTH is an adverb describing the verb GO; it means in northerly direction; so the article THE before NORTH will not be used)
b) He lives in the north. Here NORTH is a noun; it means an area in the north; so the article THE before NORTH will be used)

M) We use THE before names of musical instruments when referring to the whole class; e.g.

INCORRECT: He can play flute.
CORRECT: He can play the flute.

INCORRECT: I want to learn harmonium.
CORRECT: I want to learn the harmonium.

NOTE: But when the name of a musical instrument has been used as a countable noun, we use A/AN as the case may be; e.g.

INCORRECT: He has bought the harmonium.
CORRECT: He has bought a harmonium.

INCORRECT: I gave him the piano.
CORRECT: I gave him a piano.

N) We use THE before names of ships, aeroplanes, trains, airways

a) the Titan, b) the Vikrant, c) the Queen Mary, d) the Kashmir Princess, e) the Rajdhani Express; the Punjab Mail; the Magadh Express, f) The Jet Airways

O) We use THE before a name of an invention

the radio, the television/the T.V., the cinema

NOTE-I: However, when the word WATCH or ON is there in front of TELEVISION / T.V. we do not use THE before it. This is correct to say LISTEN TO THE RADIO or ON THE RADIO but if TELEVISION/T.V. is there, we say WATCH TELEVISION/T.V. or ON TELEVISION/T.V.

NOTE-II: When a thing of invention has been used as a countable noun, we use A/AN as the case may be; e.g.

INCORRECT: We bought the television yesterday.
CORRECT: We bought a television yesterday.

P) Before name of an empire (साम्राज्य), dynasty (वंश), historical building, historical event, historical period/age

The Marathas, The Mughal Empire, the Roman Empire, the Slave Dynasty, the Mauryan Dynasty, the Pyarmids, the Taj Mahal, the Battle of Panipat, the French Revolution, the Restoration Period, the Victorian Age, the Elizabethan Age.

Q) Before the names of armed forces

the army, the navy, the air force, the police

R) Before names of government branches and acts

the judiciary, the legislature, the executive, the Indian penal code

S) Before the names of trophies and cups 

The world cup, the Asia cup

T) Before the name of a part of body

i) If it has a preposition before it

a) She hit me ON THE HEAD.
b) I caught him BY THE HAND.

ii) Before the name of a part of body if it’s talked in general sense; not for a particular person

Drinking dulls the brain and affects the liver.

iii) Before the name of a part of body if it’s preceded by the decease/ailment

cancer of the lung; inflation of the throat

NOTE-I: However we do not use THE in some idioms if they are formed of a PREPOSITION + PART OF THE BODY even; e.g.

at hand; in hand; on foot

NOTE-II: If a part of body refers to a singular countable noun; we use A/AN before it; e.g.

Man has a head, a nose and a mouth.

U) Before the noun in apposition
NOUN IN APPOSITION = the use of noun phrase immediately after another noun or noun phrase that refers to the same person or thing. In ‘Delhi, the capital of India’; THE CAPITAL OF INDIA is in apposition to DELHI.

INCORRECT: Dr Sinha, a professor, teaches very well.
CORRECT: Dr Sinha, the professor, teaches very well.

V) When the expressions like the following ones follow a noun, we use THE in front of that noun

All of Either of Neither of Each of Some of
Both of Half of None of Most of

a) Some of the sugar; half of the milk; none of the cement; most of the money
b) All of the players are in the dressing room.

NOTE-I: If BOTH is following a noun; it’s optional to use THE before that noun; e.g.

Both the boys are good students.
= Both boys are good students.

NOTE-II: If ALL is followed by THE+NOUN; that noun becomes definite

a) All the students stood up as soon as the teacher came.
b) She has eaten all the cake.

However ALL + PLURAL NOUN if refers to the whole class of a thing, we do not use THE before that noun; e.g.

All children are difficult to handle.

W) We use THE in front of a common noun to give it the meaning of an abstract noun

At last THE WARRIOR in him was thoroughly aroused.

[WARRIOR is a common noun; means a person who takes part in a war. But here it’s used as an abstract noun; which means WARLIKE or MARTIAL SPIRIT]

X) THE + PLURAL SURNAME can be used to mean FAMILY

the Guptas = Mr and Mrs Gupta and children

Y) THE + SINGULAR NAME + CLAUSE/PHRASE can be used to distinguish one person from another of the same name

SITUATION: We have two Mr Guptas. Which do you want?
ANSWER: I want THE Mr GUPTA whose signature on this paper I need.

Z) Letters written to two or more unmarried sisters jointly may be addressed with THE

The Misses Gupta

AA) Before a noun to give the force of a superlative

INCORRECT: The verb is a word in a sentence.
CORRECT: The verb is the word in a sentence. (means the verb is the chief word in a sentence)

BB) THE and COMPARATIVES

i) If ‘OF THE TWO’ is there after a comparative degree; we use THE in front of that comparative

INCORRECT: She is better of the two writers.
CORRECT: She is the better of the two writers.

INCORRECT: Parul is more beautiful of the two sisters.
CORRECT: Parul is the more beautiful of the two sisters.

ii) For parallel increase in a quality we should use comparatives with THE—-THE

INCORRECT: More they earn, more they spend.
CORRECT: The more they earn, the more they spend.

INCORRECT: More dangerous it is, more I like it.
CORRECT: The more dangerous it is, the more I like it.

iii) If there is only one comparative in the sentence and it’s following a singular countable noun, we use A/AN (not THE) before that comparative

INCORRECT: You are the better write than him.
CORRECT: You are a better writer than him.

INCORRECT: This is the older table than that.
CORRECT: This is an older table than that.

4. Omission of Articles: A/AN & THE

A) We do not use an article before the name of a subject, language and games and sports, e.g.

SUBJECTS
a) He is a teacher of Mathematics.
b) Economics is my favourite subject.

NOTE: When the name of a subject does not refer  to the name of the subject; rather it refers to something else, we use THE before it; e.g.

I know the mathematics. (here MATHEMATICS = mathematical abilities; means I have mathematical abilities.)

LANGUAGES
When we say ‘speak/learn/know etc.’, we do not use THE before the name of a language; e.g.

a) She speaks fluent English.
b) Do you know any Hindi?

INCORRECT: He cannot speak the English.
CORRECT: He cannot speak English.

NOTE-I: When we talk about a language in terms of its history, structure, users, etc. we use THE; e.g.

INCORRECT: English language is changing very fast.
CORRECT: The English language is changing very fast.

NOTE-II: But we use THE before NAME OF A LANGUAGE + WORD LANGUGE; e.g.

INCORRECT: Do you speak German language?
CORRECT: Do you speak the German language?

NOTE-III: If the verb TRANSLATE is there before names of language(s), we use THE before the name of the language; e.g.

INCORRECT: This book is translated from French.
CORRECT: This book is translated from the French.

INCORRECT: Translate Hindi into English.
CORRECT: Translate the Hindi into the English.

GAMES AND SPORTS

INCORRECT: I like to play the cricket very much.
CORRECT: I like to play cricket very much.

B) We do not use an article after or before a noun in the possessive case, Demonstrative Adjectives or Distributive Adjectives; e.g. 

INCORRECT: This is the Ram’s book. OR This is Ram’s the book.
CORRECT: This is Ram’s book.

INCORRECT: This is a his book.
CORRECT: This is his book.

C) We do not use an article with nouns used after the following:

Type of Kind of Sort of Variety of

INCORRECT: She does not like this kind of the movies.
CORRECT: She does not like this kind of movies.

INCORRECT: Recently I have bought a new variety of the horses.
CORRECT: Recently I have bought a new variety of horses.

INCORRECT: What sort of a person he is!
CORRECT: What sort of person he is!

NOTE: In interrogative sentences, we can use A/AN after KIND OF, TYPE OF, SORT OF, but in this case meanings will be entirely different; e.g. 

a) What kind of poet is he?
b) What kind of a poet is he?

[Both these sentences have different meanings. The first sentence asks about the person’s trade or occupation, means whether he composes romantic or sad, etc. Whereas the second sentence asks about the person’s proficiency or capability, whether he composes good or not.]

D) We do not use an article before nouns after the following:

Post of Rank of Position of Job of Title of

INCORRECT: She is at the post of the director at present.
CORRECT: She is at the post of director at present.

INCORRECT: Suraj is given the post of the guard.
CORRECT: Suraj is given the post of guard.

E) We do not use an article before nouns after

A large number of A lot of Lots of Plenty of A great deal of

INCORRECT: A lot of the girls have also submitted their consent to go to the picnic.
CORRECT: A lot of girls have also submitted their consent to go to the picnic.

F) We do not use an article before the following except when used in a particular sense

i) Before MAN and WOMAN

INCORRECT: A man should be social. OR the man should be social.
CORRECT: Man should be social.

INCORRECT: The woman discloses everything.
CORRECT: Woman discloses everything.

a) A man wants to meet you. (not in general sense)
b) I met a woman in the market today, who wanted to see you badly. (not in general sense)
c) She is the woman who accompanied me to the office today. (not in general sense; specific woman here)

ii) Before ABSTRACT NOUNS, if not specific

a) I love listening to music.
b) THE MUSIC I’m listening to is very romantic. (specific)

INCORRECT: A lot of people are afraid of the death.
CORRECT: I A lot of people are afraid of death.

INCORRECT: Nowadays the pollution is a very serious problem.
CORRECT: Nowadays pollution is a very serious problem.

INCORRECT: Power enjoyed by politicians doesn’t interest him. (POWER is specific i.e. being enjoyed by politicians)
CORRECT: The power enjoyed by politicians doesn’t interest him.

iii) Before UNCOUNTABLE NOUNS/ABSTRACT NOUNS

INCORRECTY: One cannot live without the air.
CORRECT: One cannot live without air.

INCORRECT: One should speak with the honesty.
CORRECT: One should speak with honesty.

NOTE: However, when an uncountable/abstract noun is followed by OF, we use the article THE with it; e.g.

a) The tea of Darjeeling is known for its superior quality.
b) The honesty of this girl is doubtful.

G) We do not use an article before plural countable nouns used in a general sense

a) Children like ice-cream.
b) Computers are getting cheaper by the day.

NOTE: Plural nouns with a particular meaning take THE; e.g.

Where are the books? (means our books or any other particular books)

H) No articles before most proper nouns (except those taking the article THE). See point 3 (K) above to know which proper nouns that take the article THE.

i) Names of persons

Gopal, Rahim, Sohan

ii) Names of continents, countries, cities, etc.

Asia, India, Delhi

[But THE is used with Punjab; Transval; Hague; Sudan; Mall; Yemen]

iii) Names of individual mountains, islands, lakes, hills, etc.

Mount Everest, Mount Fuji, Mount Olympus

iv) Before names of festivals

Diwali, Easter, Christmas, Independence Day, New Year.

v) If the name of a place precedes the word UNIVERSITY we don’t use THE, but if it’s following the word UNIVERSITY we use THE before UNIVERSITY

a) Patna University; THE University of Patna
b) Delhi University; THE University of Delhi

NOTE: If the name of a university has the name of a person; we cannot use the structure THE + NOUN + OF + NOUN; e.g.

a) Jawaharlal Nehru University (not THE UNIVERSITY OF JAWAHARLAL NEHRU)
b) Jaiprakash Narayan University (not THE UNIVERSITY OF JAIPRAKASH NARAYAN

vi) names of airports and railway stations, and names of buildings, monuments, sacred books that comprise two or more nouns out of which one is a proper noun; e.g.

Maharaja Jai Singh Palace, Mumbai Airport, Valmiki’s Ramayan

INCORRECT: Our plane arrived at the Indira Gandhi Airport.
CORRECT: Our plane arrived at Indira Gandhi Airport.

vii) THE is not usually used in the names of streets and roads

Oxford Street, Fifth Avenue, Fir Tree Avenue, Blue Pool Road

INCORRECT: My house is situated in the Ashoka Street.
CORRECT: My school is situated in Ashoka Street.

I) We do not use an article before names of family relations like father, mother, aunt, etc.; e.g.

a) Father has come back from Ludhiana.
b) Brother wants your help.

J) The following words are not preceded by an article:

God Heaven Hell Parliament

a) Do you believe in God?
b) Theirs is a match made in heaven.
c) The boss is hell when a job is poorly done.

INCORRECT: When a bill is passed in the parliament it becomes law.
CORRECT: When a bill is passed in parliament it becomes law.

K) We do not use an article before some names of the places when they are used for their primary purpose. Some of them are:

Bed Church Temple Court
Hospital School College University
Prison Market

COMPARE:
a) Raman has been sent to prison. (primary purpose)
b) The prison to which Raman was sent does not have a security wing for dangerous criminals.

Primary purpose of court = to go to fight a case; to go as witness. etc.
Primary purpose of prison = to go as prisoners or under-trials

INCORRECT: He wants to leave the school and do a job.
CORRECT: He wants to leave school and do a job.

NOTE-I: We use THE/A/MY, etc. only when we are talking about a particular school, college, etc.; e.g.

a) She reads in a very good school.
b) Our children go to the same school.

NOTE-II: When people leave these places after the purpose being completed; is also a primary purpose.

NOTE-III: If a teacher, a doctor, a priest, etc working there go to work, is made understood below under the heading WORK.

NOTE-IV: The article THE is used with these words when we visit them for other reasons, or when we refer to them as a definite place

a) The school is on the main road. (definite place)
b) The bed is beautiful. (definite thing)
c) She goes to the temple to sweep.(SWEEPING of a temple is not primary purpose)
d) He will go to the prison to meet one of his friends today. (other reason)
e) I went to the hospital to see my uncle. (other reason)

NOTE-V: When SCHOOL, COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY, etc refer to countable nouns, we use A/AN or THE as per the need.

a) I’m going to open a school soon.
b) A university is the home of learning.
c) This is the school in which I read.

NOTE-VI: We use THE before CINEMA; e.g.

INCORRECT: We went to cinema to see Sholey.
CORRECT: We went to the cinema to see Sholey.

L) We do not use any articles in the following phrases:

by post by road by scooter in confusion in difficulty on leave
by chance by car by bicycle in time in doubt on demand
by messenger by bus by mistake in demand in debt on time
by cheque by jeep in fact in danger on strike on earth
by air by train in detail in life on duty write in ink
by land by plane in short in haste on foot Write in pencil
by sea by steamer in trouble in crisis on payment

M) Expressions of day and night time when preceded by AT, BY, AFTER, BEFORE, do not take any articles; e.g.

At dawn At night By night At midnight Around midnight
After night At daybreak At sunrise At noon Around noon
At dusk At twilight Before morning After evening By day and night, etc.

NOTE: But the following expressions take THE

In the day/night During the day/night In the morning During the morning
In the afternoon In the evening In the night Admire the sunrise, etc.

N) When we speak the date, use ‘March the twenty-fifth’ or ‘the twenty-fifth of March’, but when we WRITE the date, use ‘March 25th’ or ’25th March’ (without THE and OF); e.g.

INCORRECT: She is arriving on March the 25th.
CORRECT: She is arriving on March 25th.

O) We do not use any articles before names of meals, except they are preceded by an adjective

a) We have breakfast at eight. (here BREAKFAST is not preceded by any adjective, so it will not take the article ‘A’)
b) He gave us a good breakfast. (here BREAKFAST is preceded by the adjective GOOD, so it will take the article ‘A’)

NOTE-I: An article is also used when it is a special meal given to celebrate something or in someone’s honour; e.g.

a) I will invite her to dinner tonight. (here DINNER will not take an article as it’s an ordinary DINNER)
b) I was invited to a dinner to welcome the M.P. of the area. (here DINNER will take an article as it was given in someone’s honour)

NOTE-II: We use THE when we specify; e.g.

The lunch we had at the zoo was very nice. (LUNCH is specific)

P) We do not use an article before cook and nurse when we mean to say ‘our cook’, ‘our nurse’; e.g.

Cook has been paid for the current month. (means our cook)

Q) We do not use an article before body parts and articles of clothing if they are preceded by a possessive adjective

a) His shirt is torn.
b) Look at her hair, how long it is!
c) The brick hit Ram’s waist very hard.

NOTE: But when parts of body or articles of clothing is not preceded by a possessive adjective, and stand alone take the article THE.

a) She seized the child by the collar.
b) She patted me on the waist.
c) The brick hit him in the face.

R) Before predicative nouns (nouns in predicate) denoting a unique position/designation that is normally held at one time by one person only

He was elected CHAIRMAN of the board. OR He was elected as CHAIRMAN of the board. (the word CHAIRMAN has been used in the predicate of the sentence; and the position of CHAIRMAN is held only by one person at a time in any institution)

INCORRECT: Mr Gupta is the PRINCIPAL of this school.
CORRECT: Mr Gupta is PRINCIPAL of this school.

S) We do not use any articles before a noun compliment of the object of the verbs ELECT or APPOINT

We elected Mr Sudesh president of the society.

[here Mr Sudesh is the object of the verb ELECT; and PRESIDENT the noun compliment of Mr Sudesh.]

NOTE: If there is a countable noun as the object of ELECT or APPOINT, A/AN is used.

We will elect a president in the evening.

T) When the following nouns refer to ‘means of transport’ and are preceded by BY, we do not use an article before them:

Car Jeep Boat Ship Bus
Taxi Plane Train Steamer Bicycle Cycle, etc.

a) I will go home by taxi today.
b) A journey by train is quite safe.
c) Seema left for Delhi by plane.

NOTE-I: But when any of these nouns refer to a countable noun; they take A/AN or THE according to the requirement; e.g.

a) We will buy a car very soon.
b) A child was run over by a car.
c) The car you have is not new.

NOTE-II: We use THE in the phrases given below.

Ride on the bicycle Sit on the bicycle Be on the plane Take the train
Catch the train Sit in the car Disembark from the ship Board the plane, etc.

U) We do not use an article before the name of a disease

anaemia, malaria, appendicitis, diabetes, cancer, fever, tuberculosis, cholera, influenza, typhoid, etc.

INCORRECT: The AIDS causes a lot of suffering.
CORRECT: Aids causes a lot of suffering.

NOTE: With some diseases we can use  THE or not; they are: MEASELES, MUMPS, PLAGUE, FLU; e.g.

a) One of the children got the measles.
= One of the children got measles.

b) My son did not go to school today because of the mumps.
= My son did not go to school today because of mumps.

c) Millions have died of the plague this year.
= Millions have died of plague this year.

d) She’s very hot and shivery, so I think she must have the flu.
= She’s very hot and shivery, so I think she must have flu.

V) Before names of seasons THE is optional; means both are correct.

a) spring; the spring
b) autumn; the autumn
c) in spring; in the spring
d) in summer; in the summer

NOTE: When the name of a season refers to a countable noun, we use A/AN or THE according to need.

a) I will go there in a spring.
b) I went to Shimla in the summer of 2008.

W) Parallel structures or double expressions do not take THE

Day by day Man to man Inch by inch Woman after woman
From hand to mouth From top to bottom With knife and fork From beginning to end
With hat and coat Arm in arm, etc.

X) WORK and OFFICE

i) We do not use the article THE before WORK when WORK = place of work

a) He’s on his way to work. (means he is going to the place where he works)
b) She does not use her mobile phone when at work. (doing her duty)
c) Your father will bring you grapes while returning from work. (means while returning from place of work)

ii) We use the article THE before OFFICE when OFFICE = place of work

I am at the office right now.

NOTE: TO BE IN OFFICE without the article THE means to hold an official position (usually political position). TO BE OUT OF OFFICE = to be no longer in power

Y) TOWN

We do not use THE when speaking of the subject’s or speaker’s own town; e.g. I go to town in every summer.

Z) HOME

The article THE is not used with HOME when HOME is not preceded or followed by a descriptive word/phrase; e.g.

a) My sister is not at home right now. (You see the word HOME here neither is preceded nor followed by a descriptive word)
b) I usually arrive home after dark.

NOTE-I: But when HOME is preceded or followed by a descriptive word / phrase / clause, it is treated like any other noun

a) We have shifted to our new home.
b) He will go to the bride’s home today.

NOTE-II: When the verb in a sentence is not a verb of motion, HOME is preceded by the preposition AT; e.g.

He is at home. (You see that the verb IS, is not a verb of motion)

But when the verb in the sentence is a verb of motion we do not use a preposition before HOME. In that case we directly place it after the verb; e.g.

He went home. (You see that the verb WENT, is indicating an action; so no preposition is there before HOME)

AA) SEA

In general, SEA is preceded by the article THE because it being unique. But when it’s gone to as a sailor, or we go there on a voyage as passengers or crew, SEA does not take the article THE.

NOTE: But when we go to SEA or are at the SEA it means SEASIDE; and hence takes the article THE. We can also live by/near THE SEA.

BB) NATURE

Nature (=the natural world of birds, trees, rivers etc) is never used with THE; e.g.

INCORRECT: I love the nature very much.
CORRECT: I love nature very much.

CC) SPACE

When SPACE = the area around everything that exists, continuing in all directions, we do not use an article before it; e.g.

INCORRECT: He was absent-mindedly staring into the space.
CORRECT: He was absent-mindedly staring into space.

INCORRECT: A great number of trees were felled to provide the space for grazing.
CORRECT: A great number of trees were felled to provide space for grazing.

NOTE: However, for other meanings SPACE can take an article. When the noun SPACE is preceded by a determiner, it does not take an article; e.g.

a) The government is going to provide here a space for parking soon.
b) Water covered a large space at the end of the valley.
c) It all happened in the space of ten minutes.
d) A table took up much of the space.
e) Let’s rest for a space. (here SPACE = a little while)
f) My car’s too big to fit in this space. (THIS is a determiner.)
g) There is no space for a table. (NO is a determiner)

5. REPETITION OF ARTICLES

When two or more connected nouns refer to the same person or thing, we use the article before the first one only; but when they refer to different persons or things, we use the article before each of those nouns

COMPARE:

1-a) The Secretary and Treasurer is absent.

[here two nouns SECRETARY and TRESURER are referring to the same person, as the article THE is used before the first noun i.e. SECRETARY only. Hence it means the posts of Secretary and Treasurer are held by one person only.)

b) The Secretary and the Treasurer are absent.

[Here two nouns SECRETARY and TRESURER are referring to different persons as the article THE is used with both of them. Hence it means the two posts are held by two different persons.]

2-a) He is a better painter than cook. (two nouns PAINTER and COOK are referring to one person as the article ‘A’ is used before the first one only)
b) He is a better painter than a cook. (PAINTER and COOK are two different persons, as the article is used before each of them.)

6. POSITION OF ARTICLES

A) SUCH when is an adjective always takes the article A/AN after it if the noun is singular countable; e.g.

b) She is such an intelligent girl that every teacher likes her.
c) The journey took such a long time that I got exhausted.

B) When WHAT refers to an exclamatory adjective, it takes A/AN after; e.g.

a) What a beautiful shot!
b) What a fool!

C) When HOW refers to an exclamatory adverb or it’s in interrogative, the article comes between the adjective and the noun; e.g.

a) How big is the tree? (Interrogative)
b) How big the tree is! (Exclamatory)
c) How tall a girl is!

D) TOO/SO/AS/HOW when are adverbs, the article A/AN comes between adjective and noun; means the structure is TOO/SO/AS/HOW + ADJECTIVE + A/AN + NOUN; e.g.

This is too heavy a table for me to lift.

E) QUITE always takes A/AN after it when followed by an adjective + singular countable noun; e.g.

quite a long walk, quite an old castle, quite a nice day

F) JUST when means merely/only it takes A/AN or THE after it; the structure is JUST + A/AN/THE + ADJECTIVE; e.g.

just a handsome boy, just the right amount

G) When RATHER precedes a noun, the article comes between rather and the noun; e.g.

a) It is rather a pity. (rather regrettable)
b) She is rather a dear. ( rather lovable)

NOTE: But when RATHER follows an adjective + noun we can use any options; e.g.

a rather surprising visit
= rather a surprising visit

H) ALL/BOTH take the article THE after them; e.g. 

All the players, all the best players, both the teachers

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Maha Gupta

Maha Gupta

Founder of www.examscomp.com and guiding aspirants on SSC exam affairs since 2010 when objective pattern of exams was introduced first in SSC. Also the author of the following books:

1. Maha English Grammar (for Competitive Exams)
2. Maha English Practice Sets (for Competitive Exams)

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