Art Scene 1 Language Focus

Rob and Ashlie talk about the little words which cause so much trouble: articles!

Watch the video. Then go to Task and do the activities.

Task 1

Use a, an, or 0 (no article) to complete the sentences.

Exercise

Task 2

Use the definite (the) or indefinite article (a) to finish the sentences.

Exercise

Task 3

Match the questions with the answers using I guess.

Exercise

Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.
Download

Submitted by May Thida Su on Tue, 23/02/2021 - 14:31

Permalink
Could any of you tell me what Ash and Rob said at 00:13 - 00:19, 00:26 - 00:29 ? I can't catch their speaking speed.

Hello May Thida Su,

00:13 - 00:19:

Ashlie: I know! He really did think that rubbish bin was a piece of art!

 

00:26 - 00:29

Ashlie: Yeah. It is something you read in a newspaper or a magazine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Tue, 16/02/2021 - 12:27

Permalink
Why do English speaking people care about the number? I need to memorize plural/singular nouns, but still it's tricky! ;)

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Sat, 05/05/2018 - 11:50

Permalink
Having learned the rules, I'm not 100% sure about articles. For example, will you tell me which is correct? Mr.A was a villain in the war. Mr.A was the villain in the war.

Hello Rafaela1,

Both sentences are possible.

If you say a villain then we understand that there were many villains and Mr. A is one of them.

If you say the villain then we understand that there was one particular villain (perhaps the only one, or perhaps the main one, or perhaps one which was mentioned before) and that Mr. A was that villain.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter! I appreciate your great help which motivates my learning! :))

Submitted by ifencing on Sat, 14/04/2018 - 18:22

Permalink
Hello British Councial. I really need your help. In one book it says: the definite article is used before a noun when it represents a whole class of things; The compoter has made text editing easier, But the indefinite article is not possible because it would refer to one or any member of the class but not the class as a whole. The other book says: we can use a/the before singular countable nouns to refer to a class of people, animals and things. A/the dolphin is a mammal. Can you explain why one book says that we can't use the indefinite article in that sense 'a computer has made....' and it says it's wrong. But the other book says 'A dolphin and the dolphin is a mammal' both exeptional, Thanks in advance.

Hello ifencing,

I'm afraid I can't explain why books are written as they are - for this you will have to contact the author of each book. What I can do is explain how articles are used with general meaning. It is possible to use the indefinite article, the definite article and the zero article  with general meaning, but there are differences.

 

 

a + singular countable noun

we can use this with general meaning when we are talking about something which defines the group.  For example:

An elephant is an impressive sight.

In other words, being an impressive sight is one of the characteristics of an elephant; if we saw an animal and it was not impressive then we could be fairly sure that it was not an elephant.  We are talking about any elephant here - it is true of them all.

 

 

the + singular noun

we can use this with general meaning when we are talking about our image or concept of the noun.  For example:

The elephant can live for over sixty years.

Here we are not talking about a real elephant, but rather the concept of 'elephant' in our heads.

 

 

no article + plural countable noun or uncountable noun

we use this to talk about what is normal or typical of a type.  It may or may not be true of all individuals but it is typical of most.  For example:

Swedish people are tall.

Here we are talking about the average height of Swedes, not any particular person or concept.

 

 

The distinction is subtle, as I said, but sometimes it can be important.  For example, we can say with general meaning:

Whales are in danger of becoming extinct.

The whale is in danger of becoming extinct.

However, we cannot say:

A whale is in danger of becoming extinct.

This is because being in danger of becoming extinct may be true but it does not define the whale.

 

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.  It is a difficult area and the distinctions are quite subtle.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

thanks a lot) You explained it better than books =) Thats why The British Council is the best of the best )

Submitted by wangyao on Mon, 02/04/2018 - 11:00

Permalink
I heard Rob pronounced the word "a" is similar to /ə/ but when I looked up the dictionary, I saw a's pronunciation is /ei/. Does the word "a" have two ways to pronounce or there is a problem is my listening skill?

Hi wangyao,

You are right -- 'a' has two pronunciations, a strong one (/eɪ/) and a weak one (/ə/). I'm not sure what dictionary you used, but I'd recommend the Cambridge Dictionary as a good general reference.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Donald Harrison on Thu, 22/03/2018 - 13:42

Permalink
Dear Team, I will be grateful if you could clear my doubts on Articles as follows: Text: This month is Black History month, celebrating the contribution that Afro Caribbean people have made to British society Question: Why not " the British Society" . Isn't it a one of a particular thing as a whole? Text: The Irish have come to Britain for many years, looking for work. After World War Two Irish and other European workers were encouraged to take factory jobs Question: Why "the" before the first Irish and no article for the second Irish. Isn't Irish a general term?. Why not "the World War Two" . Don't we use when there is only one thing of that kind exist, such as " the Sun"

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 23/03/2018 - 06:44

In reply to by Donald Harrison

Permalink

Hello Donald Harrison,

'Society' has no article when it refers to the abstract concept of society, with a meaning similar to culture. We use an article with it when we are referring not to the abstract concept but to a particular organisation: I'm a member of a music society, I keep my money in the local builing society.

 

In your second example the word 'Irish' is used in different ways:

  • The Irish have... - here 'Irish' is a collective noun and we use the definite article before such nouns: the old, the young, the rich, the English, the Victorians.
  • Irish and other workers were encouraged... - here 'Irish' is an adjective describing the noun 'workers'.

 

'World War Two' is treated as a proper name. Where a descriptive name is used there is an article, so we say World War Two (no article) but the Second World War, the Vietnam War and the Battle of Trafalgar.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, Thank you for the comprehensive explanation. It is much appreciated. Now I can see other aspects of grammar that should be considered when learning the usage of articles. Donald Harrison

Submitted by Zeeshan Siddiqii on Tue, 30/01/2018 - 06:00

Permalink
When we talk about the London city, it evokes the beautiful sonnet by Wordsworth. In this 'the' before 'London' is right? Can we use 'the' before city name?

Hello Zeeshan Siddiqii,

There are several options here. You can say 'the city of London' or just 'London'. Sometimes you will see the informal phrase 'London Town' used. You can also see the capitalised phrase 'the City of London' or just 'the City', which refers to the financial centre.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by vishnujana on Mon, 23/10/2017 - 06:39

Permalink
English is a very difficult for understanding.

Submitted by Rokia Motawee on Fri, 16/06/2017 - 03:16

Permalink
hello, I'm very happy to watch this series . It's verry good for me and the exercises are excellent.

Hello Rakan,

I'm afraid that the Language focus videos don't have transcripts. If there's a specific short part that you want to ask us about, please just let us know what the time codes for it are (for example, 1:05-1:10) and we can write it out for you. You might also want to look through some of the past comments, as other users may have asked the same question as you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jesiel18 on Fri, 17/03/2017 - 06:37

Permalink
Hello! I have a question. Do I need to put an article before the word "very" in the following sentence: CloudSim is very useful tool for simulating? If an article is to be used, should it be article "a"? Thanks a lot.

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 17/03/2017 - 09:19

In reply to by jesiel18

Permalink

Hello jesiel18,

Yes, that's correct -- you should use the article 'a' before 'very useful tool'. Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jesiel18 on Sat, 18/03/2017 - 06:29

In reply to by jesiel18

Permalink
Thank you Kirk for the reply. I am really doubtful about what article to use or if there is a need to use an article most of the time in a sentence. Thanks for this website that I accidentally discover while looking for rules in article usage.

Submitted by Allessya on Mon, 13/02/2017 - 16:18

Permalink
Hello!) I have some questions: I had a long chat with Paula on the phone yesterday evening. (Why "a"?) Hello! Come in. Did you have a good day at work? (Why "a"?)

Hello Allessya,

In each case the reference is to one of many possible examples. The speaker in the first sentence presumably has many chats and the question is about whether this was one of the good ones or not - the adjective 'long' does not change this.

The same thing is true of the second example. People have good days and bad days at work; this is a question asking if this was one of the former.

Note that if the conversation continues about the chat or the day then the speakers would switch to 'the' rather than 'a', as they would then be talking about a specific example - the article use known as 'second mention'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter M, Thank you so much for your explanation! Have a nice day!

Submitted by gigi1717 on Thu, 02/02/2017 - 19:14

Permalink
Hello. I have a question about articles, and how apply them right, after of and in.

Hello gigi1717,

The rules for article use do not change after 'of' or 'in'. They are the same as in any other sentence. You can read about the way articles are used on these pages (use the links on the right to read about particular uses) and if you have any specific questions after reading those then we'll, of course, be happy to answer.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team