ARTICLES – GENERALIZATIONS AND SPECIAL USES
As I said, I’ve noticed that many English learners have problems using articles. That is why I decided to go through the rules of the use of articles. I’ve already gone through the basic rules, so now it is time to focus on some special uses. In this free English lesson, the focus will also be on the use of articles for generalizations.
Read the paragraph below and pay special attention to the articles in the paragraph.
The tiger is the largest cat species. Tigers are predators, primarily preying on deer. They are territorial and generally solitary but social animals, often requiring large areas of habitat that support their prey requirements. Tigers are active mainly during the day. A tiger can weigh between 90 to 306 kg.
This paragraph is about tigers in general and not about specific animals. As you can see, for generalizations like this, we can use a plural or uncountable noun on its own, or a singular noun with a/an or the.
Tigers are active mainly during the day.
A tiger can weigh between 90 to 360 kg.
The tiger is the largest can species.
!!! A sentence such as The tigers were chasing after an antelope. refers to a specific group of tigers. So, we cannot use the tigers for a generalization.
Keep reading and learn MORE TIPS TO IMPROVE your English Grammar.
Here are some rules you need to pay attention to when generalizing:
The most common way of making a generalization is to use a plural or uncountable noun on its own without an article.
Tigers are active mainly during the day.
We can use a/an in a generalization.
A cheetah can run up to 90 miles per hour. - In this example, a cheetah means ‘any cheetah’ or ‘a typical cheetah’.
We normally use a/an when explaining the meaning of a singular word.
A handle is the part of a door, drawer, window, etc. that you use to open it.
You can sometimes use the with a singular noun to make a generalization. For example, you can do this with animals and plants.
The giant sequoia can grow to an average height of 50-86 m and 6-8 m in diameter.
We use the with some kinds of people described in economic terms.
The customer is always right.
We also use the with inventions.
The compass was invented in China.
Now, let’s go on to some special uses of articles....
SOME SPECIAL USES
Use to the cinema/theater even if you do not mean a specific one.
I’ve been to the cinema three times this month.
If we are talking about television or radio in a general sense as a medium or a business, then we use the noun on its own.
I got a job in television.
When we are talking about the physical objects, we use a/an or the in the usual way.
I bought a new television/a new radio.
We say the press (=newspapers) and the media (=television, radio, and newspapers).
The media love celebrity divorces
When you are talking about playing musical instruments, use the. This refers to a general ability to play any instrument, not just a specific one.
I have a friend who plays the piano.
But the is often left out in play guitar.
John plays guitar in a band.
We use the bus and the train in a general sense as a means of transport.
I usually go to work on the bus.
But we say by bus and by train without the.
When we talk about a specific vehicle, we use a/an or the in the usual way.
My dog was run over by a car last week.
We say the police.
The police arrived within ten minutes.
With policeman, policewoman, and police officer, we can use a/an or the in the usual way.
A police officer arrested him.
We can use a/an in expressions of frequency, price, and speed.
I take my dog for a walk four times a day.
We can say by the to say how something is measured.
Carpets are sold by the square meter.
Some words for kinds of surrounding usually have the when they have a general meaning. They are town, country, countryside, sea, and seaside.
When we talk about specific town, we use a/an or the in the usual way.
There is a small town near the lake.
When we talk about a specific country area, we use the in the usual way.
The seaside here is beautiful.
A SINGULAR NOUN ON ITS OWN
some nouns for institutions
School starts at 8 o’clock.
You can use the nouns without the when talking about the normal purpose of an institution.
When talking about a specific building, use the.
The school is in the city center.
some phrases of time
I need to finish my paper by Monday.
These nouns are normally used on their own: dawn, daybreak, sunrise; midday, noon; dusk, sunset, twilight; dark, nightfall; midnight.
in some fixed expressions where the noun is repeated or there is a contrast between the two nouns.
I lie awake night after night.
In phrases with by expressing means of transport.
I usually go to work by train.
In many idiomatic phrases, especially after a preposition.
for example, in fact, on holiday, at risk
But there are also idiomatic phrases with an article.
for a change, in a hurry, at the moment, on the whole
We can sometimes leave out an article to avoid repeating it.
Put the gloves and scarf on. It’s freezing outside!
We can do this when two things are seen as closely linked, like the gloves and a scarf. But when there is no link between them, we repeat the article.