When do we omit articles (the,a,an) in a sentence?
Before uncountable nouns (mass nouns)
Substances, concepts, etc that we cannot divide into separate elements.
We cannot count milk or sugar, but we can say a spoon of sugar or a glass of milk.
- music, art, love, happiness
- advice, information, news
- furniture, luggage
- rice, sugar, butter, water
- electricity, gas, power
- money, currency
We usually treat uncountable nouns as singular. We use a singular verb. For example:
- This news is very important.
- Your luggage looks heavy.
We do not usually use the indefinite article a/an with uncountable nouns. We cannot say “an information” or “a music”. But we can say a “something” of:
- a piece of news
- a bottle of water
- a grain of rice
We can use some and any with uncountable nouns:
- I’ve got some money.
- Have you got any rice?
We can use a little and much with uncountable nouns:
- I’ve got a little money.
- I haven’t got much rice.
Before plural countable nouns
We do not use articles before plural countable nouns used in a general sense.
- Children usually rush about.
- Computers are useful machines.
Note that plural nouns take the article the when they are used in a particular sense.
- Where are the children? (Which children? Our children)
Before proper nouns
We do not use articles before the names of countries, people, continents, cities, rivers and lakes.
- India is a democratic country. (NOT The India …)
- Paris is the capital of France. (NOT The Paris …)
Before the names of meals
We do not use articles before the names of meals.
- Mother is cooking lunch.
- Dinner is ready.
We use a when there is an adjective before breakfast, lunch, dinner etc. We use the when we are talking about a particular meal.
- I had a late dinner yesterday.
- The lunch we had at the restaurant was very good.
We do not use articles before the names of languages.
- Can you speak English? (NOT Can you speak the English?)
- They speak French at home.
Before school, college, university, church, bed, hospital, prison etc.
- His dad is still in hospital.
- We learned English at school.
- He is at university.
The is used before these words when the reference is to the building or object rather than to the normal activity that goes on there.
- I met her at the church. (Here the reference is to the building and not to the activity that is going on there.)
- I went to the hospital to see my friend.
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