Omission of the articles

July 25, 2010pdf

Before uncountable nouns

We do not use articles before uncountable and abstract nouns used in a general sense.

  • Honey is sweet. (NOT The honey is sweet.)
  • Sugar is bad for your teeth.
  • Wisdom is better than riches.
  • Virtue is its own reward.

Note that uncountable nouns take the article the when used in a particular sense.

  • Would you pass the sugar? (= the sugar on the table)

Before plural countable nouns

We do not use articles before plural countable nouns used in a general sense.

  • Children usually rush about.
  • Computers are useful machines.

Note that plural nouns take the article the when they are used in a particular sense.

  • Where are the children? (Which children? Our children)

Before proper nouns

We do not use articles before the names of countries, people, continents, cities, rivers and lakes.

  • India is a democratic country. (NOT The India …)
  • Paris is the capital of France. (NOT The Paris …)

Before the names of meals

We do not use articles before the names of meals.

  • Mother is cooking lunch.
  • Dinner is ready.

We use a when there is an adjective before breakfast, lunch, dinner etc. We use the when we are talking about a particular meal.

  • I had a late dinner yesterday.
  • The lunch we had at the restaurant was very good.

Before languages

We do not use articles before the names of languages.

  • Can you speak English? (NOT Can you speak the English?)
  • They speak French at home.

Before school, college, university, church, bed, hospital, prison etc.

  • His dad is still in hospital.
  • We learned English at school.
  • He is at university.

The is used before these words when the reference is to the building or object rather than to the normal activity that goes on there.

  • I met her at the church. (Here the reference is to the building and not to the activity that is going on there.)
  • I went to the hospital to see my friend.
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