Grammar: Articles

Example errors

Look at the example errors below. Can you fix them?

Incorrect
The dogs are my favourite animal.
– The participants were given questionnaire.
– Susie’s teacher gave her an advice.

What are the grammar rules?

1.  Articles belong to a group of words called determiners, which are used before a noun to show how the noun is being used.

Here are some common determiners:

this, the, a/an, that, my, his, some, every

2.  There are two different articles: the definite article (the) and the indefinite article (a/an).

As you can see from the table below, they are used in different ways.

Definite article (the)Indefinite article (a/an)
used when everyone knows what is being referred toused when only the speaker/writer knows what is being referred to (i.e. when the speaker/writer introduces something for the first time)

3.  Articles are not used when something is being referred to in general. In many other languages, the definite article (the) is used in this context. This can be a source of confusion.

Look at the examples below. We don’t use the definite article (the) with the underlined nouns because we are referring to them in a general way.

Psychologists work very hard.
– There is a strong relationship between self-confidence and happiness.

4.  The definite article (the) is used when the noun is unique. That is, it is used when there is only one.

Look at the examples below. We use the definite article (the) with the underlined nouns because there is only one of each.

– Exposure to the sun causes skin cancer.
The Myers–Briggs questionnaire is commonly used in organisations.

5.  There are a couple of simple rules you can follow to make sure you have not made any serious errors with your articles.

RuleIncorrectCorrect
You cannot use a/an with a plural or uncountable noun.– The researchers gave a participants the questionnaire.

An equipment was used to analyse the samples.
– The researchers gave participants the questionnaire.

– Equipment was used to analyse the samples.
You must use an article (or another determiner) before a singular countable noun.– Participant was confused by the task.The participant was confused by the task.

OR

Every participant was confused by the task.

Corrected errors

Here are the corrected errors from the start of the lesson.

IncorrectCorrect
The dogs are my favourite animal.Dogs are my favourite animal.
– The participants were given questionnaire.– The participants were given a/the questionnaire.
– Susie’s teacher gave her an advice.– Susie’s teacher gave her some advice.

Quiz

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