Achieve a More Natural Sounding Accent with Articles: Part 4

Welcome to part four of Achieving a More Natural Sounding Accent with Articles!  You’re on your way to MASTERING use of the definite article “the” and the indefinite article “a!” In  Part 3, we learned about exceptions to using articles. In this blog, we summarize all the circumstances for using the definite article “the.”

We use “the” in the following circumstances:

  1. To indicate the noun is agreed upon by the speaker and listener (the noun has a specific referent from the speaker’s point of view for both the speaker and the listener).
  2. To classify the noun as definite, identified, or specific.
  3. With nouns whose specific identity is known to the reader.
  4. The ways a noun is known to its speaker and listener/reader are:
    1. The noun has been previously mentioned or knowledge of the noun for both the speaker and listener is based on former interactions and not specifically mentioned in the current conversation.
    2. A superlative such as “best,” “most,” “highest” makes the noun’s identity specific
    3. The context or situation makes the noun’s identity clear.
    4. A phrase or clause (group of words following the noun) restricts its identity.

Learning about rules gets even more fun!  We omit “the” in the following situations:

You’re talking about:

    1. A singular city, country, or continent
    2. Singular family name
    3. A mountain or lake
    4. An island
    5. A meal
    6. A specific color or game or sport
    7. A language
    8. A street, square, or park
    9. A magazine
    10. A bridge, station, or airport
    11. An airline or company
    12. An illness
    13. A restaurant, bank, or hotel when it’s in the possessive form
    14. A planet
    15. A title
    16. Heaven, Hell, and paradise
    17. Means of transport with the word “by” before them
    18. The word “work” meaning “place of work”
    19. Percentages, fractions
    20. A noun plus a number
    21. Possessive nouns
    22. The word “life”
    23. The word “death”

We use “a” or “an” in the following circumstances:

You want to classify the noun as indefinite.  The circumstances where a noun is indefinite include instances when you want to:

  1. Introduce a noun to the listener that is specific for the speaker but not the listener
  2. Refer to a noun that is nonspecific for the speaker but which is assumed to be specific for the listener
  3. Show that the noun does not have a specific referent for the speaker or the listener
  4.  Identify or classifty a noun the verb “to be”

Congratulations!  You have graduated from Part 4 of “Achieve a More Natural Sounding Accent with Articles” Series!  Watch for our “Definite and Indefinite Article Practice” series!




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