City University of Hong Kong CLASS CLASS
Making Sense of Grammar
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When should we put an article (a/an/the) before a noun? And in what condition it should be omitted?

Group number: TA1 Group 3

asked Apr 8, 2022 in Questions about English Grammar by newuser (160 points) | 108 views

1 Answer

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1. Before Plural and Uncountable Nouns 

e.g. I am writing Christmas cards. (Plural noun) 

e.g. We cannot live without water. (Uncountable noun) 

2. Before Proper Nouns 

e.g. Paris is the capital of France. (Place) 

e.g. Mary has a little lamb. (Name) 

e.g. Monday (days of the week), January (Month), Japanese (Language) 

3. Common expressions of time and place 

e.g. at dawn/daybreak, at sunrise/sunset, at noon/night, by day/night, at school, in jail 

4. Before meals 

e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner 

5. Before sports and games 

e.g. playing basketball/football 

6. Before academic subjects 

e.g. She majors in linguistics. 

7. Before movement 

e.g. by bus, by taxi, on foot 

It seems there are still some exceptions for the use of zero article. For example, “The breakfast is ready” is without zero article and it sounds alright.  If we use “breakfast” after a verb, we should use zero article, for example, “I eat breakfast at 7am”. “The breakfast” means it is referring and it is a specific breakfast. “I eat breakfast at 7am” is non-referring and it can be any breakfast. Moreover, some countries like The United States and The Philippines, we cannot use zero articles because “The” is part of their official names.  

However, social and political factors affect the use of zero article in some cases. “Ukraine” is one of the examples in this case. “Ukraine” used to be called “the Ukraine” which was the only acceptable usage 40 years ago. Ukrainians did not like the “The” later on, so people were told not to call “Ukraine” as “the Ukraine”. Thus, its name is changed to use zero article. 

answered Apr 8, 2022 by newuser (160 points)
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