Zero Article in English
The zero article the is used in the following cases:
|With a singular countable noun when we address somebody:
|What is the matter, Doctor?
Don't worry, Mother. I will be O.K.
|With plural countable nouns when they represent all the elements which belong to the group:
|Elephants are big animals.
Oranges have vitamins in.
|When a plural countable countable noun denotes the number of indefinite elements:
|There are people in the street.
Students often stay at colleges.
|When a plural countable noun is preceded by be or become:
|The Browns are engineers.
Mrs. Smith's daughters became actresses.
|With abstract nouns such as: beauty, truth, etc.
|Beauty is truth.
|With names of materials such as: wood, glass, etc.
|Chairs are made of wood.
This vase is made of glass
|Some of the above-mentioned nouns can be used as countable nouns and then they are preceded by the indefinite article
|a wood (i.e. "a small forest")
a glass (i.e. "a mirror" or "a drinking vessel")
There is a wood not far from my cottage.
I got a glass as a birthday present.
|With such uncountable nouns as money, milk, etc.:
|Lily needs money.
One should drink milk.
|The above-mentioned nouns can be preceded by such expressions as: some, a lot of, etc.
|Lily needs some money.
One should drink a lot of milk.
|In exclamatory sentences when uncountable or plural countable nouns are used:
What a waste!
What a pity!
|With few and little when we express small number or small amount
|I have few friends. (i.e. ‘almost no friends’)
I have little sugar. (i.e. ‘almost no sugar’)
|When a singular countable noun is used after be and become and denotes a unique job/profession
|John Kennedy was President.
Karol Wojtyla became Pope.
|When a noun is used after turn
|He turned musician and made a great career.
He turned spy and was imprisoned.
|When a noun refers to an institution which is only one of its kind
|When will parliament begin its session?
When does school end?
|With two or more nouns when they refer to a couple of people or a couple of inanimate things
|Father and mother went to the cinema.
She was studying day and night before her final exams.
|When a noun is used in notes, signs, headlines, telegraphs etc.
Design flaw feared.
|With some nouns which are only one of their kind
|With the names of seasons, months, days of the week
|With nouns preceded by a pronoun or an adjective
my white shirt
|With names of meals, except when they are preceded by an adjective:
|We have breakfast at eight.
He gave us a good breakfast.
|The indefinite article is used when we talk about a special meal prepared to celebrate something or welcome somebody:
|I was invited to dinner. (in the ordinary way)
I was invited to a dinner given to welcome the new ambassador.
|With the following nouns when the places named are used for their primary purpose
We learn at school.
When he became seriously ill, he was taken to hospital.
My bus stops opposite the school.
Yesterday, I was allowed to go to the hospital to see my cousin.
|With a noun sea when we talk about sailors or passengers
|We go to sea as sailors.
to be at sea = to be on a voyage as passengers or crew
|But when we talk about sea as a seaside then we use the
|He was at the sea (at the seaside)
When he was young he lived by/near the sea.
|When the speaker refers to his/her own town
|We go to town sometimes to buy clothes.
We were in town last Monday.
|With the names of some magazines/newspapers
|With the names of some organizations
|With the names of some buildings, bridges and streets
|With man when we denote 'mankind'
|Man constantly changes his natural environment.
|countries, counties, states
|towns, cities and villages
|single islands unless their name include a preposition
The Isle of Wight
The Isle of Man
|single mountains unless their name include a preposition
The Mountain of the Seven Sights
|expressions such as:
|day by day
from dawn to dusk
hand in hand
from beginning to end
face to face
from west to east
|With abstract nouns which are used with general meaning
|Some people like risk.
|With the noun home when we refer to the speaker's or listener's house
|It's late I have to go home.
If you don't feel well, you should stay at home.
|With last and next when we refer to the nearest days, weeks, months, etc.
|I met him last week.
(i.e. "the week before the present one")
I hope to see you next week.
(i.e. "the week after the present one")
|With gerund when an activity / state expressed by the gerund is not definite
|Mrs. Thompson likes cooking.
ExercisesGrammar exercises - Articles
- Grammar explanations
- Grammar exercises
- Phrasal verbs
- British vs. American
- English proverbs
- Word formation
- English abbreviations