Articles

Learn how to avoid grammar errors with 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’re used in different ways.

Definite article (the) Indefinite article (a/an)
used when everyone knows what is being referred to used 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 aren’t 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’re 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’s used when there’s only one.

Look at the examples below. We use the definite article (the) with the underlined nouns because there’s 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 haven’t made any serious errors with your articles.

Rule Incorrect Correct
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.

Incorrect Correct
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

Try the questions below to test what you’ve learnt about articles.

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Select the appropriate article for each blank.

One way that researchers attempt to measure impact of nature is by studying twins. Some studies have followed identical twins who were raised separately. The pairs shared the same genetics but in some cases were socialized in different ways. Instances of this type of situation are rare, but studying degree to which identical twins raised apart are the same and different can give researchers insight into way our temperaments, preferences and abilities are shaped by our genetic makeup versus our social environment. For example, in 1968, twin girls were put up for adoption, separated from each other and raised in different households. adoptive parents, and certainly the babies, did not realise the girls were one of five pairs of twins who were made subjects of scientific study. In 2003, two women, then age thirty-five, were reunited. Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein sat together in awe, feeling like they were looking into mirror. Not only did they look alike but they also behaved alike, using the same hand gestures and facial expressions. Studies like these point to the genetic roots of our temperament and behaviour.

__________

“Introduction to Sociology 3e” by OpenStax is licensed under CC BY 4.0. A small excerpt was extracted from Chapter 5 and edited. This textbook can be downloaded free from https://openstax.org/details/books/introduction-sociology-3e.

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Feedback

Click below for the answers.

One way that researchers attempt to measure the impact of nature is by studying twins. Some studies have followed identical twins who were raised separately. The pairs shared the same genetics but in some cases were socialized in different ways. Instances of this type of situation are rare, but studying the degree to which identical twins raised apart are the same and different can give researchers insight into the way our temperaments, preferences and abilities are shaped by our genetic makeup versus our social environment. For example, in 1968, twin girls were put up for adoption, separated from each other and raised in different households. The adoptive parents, and certainly the babies, did not realise the girls were one of five pairs of twins who were made subjects of a scientific study. In 2003, the two women, then age thirty-five, were reunited. Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein sat together in awe, feeling like they were looking into a mirror. Not only did they look alike but they also behaved alike, using the same hand gestures and facial expressions. Studies like these point to the genetic roots of our temperament and behaviour.