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Grammar: Article Usage (2): intermediate

We developed some rules from part 1; this lesson here builds on those rules by introducing more advanced techniques.


Let's remind ourselves of some of the previous article usage rules we discovered. If you have difficulty with filling in the rules below, you should review our first article usage lesson, the basics of article usage.

Complete the rules below. 

  • We can only use _________________ for uncountable nouns and countable nouns in plural form.
  • We can only use ________ for countable nouns in singular form.
  • If the reader DOES NOT know which “revolution”, then use ____________
  • If the writer AND the reader DO KNOW which “revolution”, then use ____________
Check answers. 

New article usage rules

With those rules in mind, let's discover some new ones for more advanced article usage.We'll do this by reading some example sentences and answering some questions.

Read the sentences below and answer the questions.  

The giraffe is the tallest of all animals.
Am I speaking about one giraffe?
Am I speaking about all giraffes in general?
The bicycle is an excellent means of transportation.
Am I speaking about one bicycle?
Am I speaking about all bicycles in general?
When was the telephone invented?
Am I speaking about one telephone?
Am I speaking about all telephones in general?
The dollar is the currency of the United States.
Am I speaking about one dollar?
Am I speaking about all dollars in general?

Giraffe, bicycle, telephone, and dollar are which type of noun? Countable or uncountable?

Do these sentences have the same meaning?
The giraffe is the tallest of all animals.
Giraffes are the tallest of all animals.
 Check answers.

So, when talking about a countable noun in general, we can use the article _______ plus the _______ form of the noun. 

 Check answers.

What about articles with adjectives?

You may read or hear sentences like the ones below. 
Do you think the rich should pay higher taxes?
The rich are powerful.
The poor outnumber the rich.

Is rich a noun? Is poor a noun?

No, they are adjectives. So, why is "the" before rich and poor?

Sometimes, the noun can be dropped. 

The noun can be dropped if the reader AND the writer both know what is being discussed. For example, the paired sentences below have the same meaning. Notice how the noun is dropped in the second sentence, but the meaning stays the same.

The rich people are powerful.
The rich are powerful. 
The poor people outnumber the rich people.
The poor outnumber the rich
Be careful if you decide to drop the noun! Find out why by reading the example sentences below. 

Do these sentences have the same meaning? If there's a difference, what is it?

Rich people are powerful. 
The rich are powerful. 
The poor people outnumber the rich people
Poor outnumber the rich. 
 Check answers.


So, sometimes we can use ____ plus an _____ and not include the ___________ when describing a noun that the READER and WRITER both know. 

 Check answers. 

Final Remarks

As you can see from this lesson, sometimes article usage depends on the conversation. However, in general the word "the" is most often used when both the writer and reader (speaker and listener if you're in a conversation) both know which particular thing you are talking about. 

Also, by reading for the article usage in newspapers, magazines, or other publications, you can determine the particular audience for that publication. This is a more advanced form of reading, but really useful in determining audiences for yourself and others. In many places, this is called "reading for the conversation". 


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