Wednesday, 17 February 2010

General Grammar Exercises/Use of the Definite Article ("The")


Use of the Definite Article ("The")








Problem: Students from certain countries (such as China, Central and Eastern Europe) don't use articles, so they seem impossibly difficult to understand. They are difficult, and it would be easier if we didn't use them either. Sorry, but we just do!
 
Solution: Learn a few basic rules, then try the practice exercise. Finally read the important summary after the exercise.
Later, underline where "the" is used in a newspaper article. See if you can understand why it's used. Maybe print the rules from this page to help you. Then look for places where it isn't used before the noun, and, again, see if you can say why.


Some rules for use of the definite article ("the")

1) Used when a noun is mentioned for the second time.
“He came into the classroom with a chair balanced on his head!”
“Then what did he do?”
“He sat on the chair and lit up a fag.”
"Never!"
Fag (U.K.) cigarette (U.S.) homosexual (intended in a nasty and insulting way.)

    2) Used before superlatives.

"The poorest people live in the slums.”
Slums – area of poorest housing in a city. Have you heard of the film “Slumdog Millionaire"? (U.S. – ghetto)
 
    3) Used when something is unique.

“His name is known throughout the world.”
"Throughout the world" and "all over the world". Two useful collocations. Remember them!

4) Used to represent a “class” or “type” of things.

The dolphin is the cleverest creature on earth.”
“Nothing wastes more time at work than the computer.”
With the same meaning, but using the plural, compare the following:
“Dolphins are the cleverest creatures on earth.”
“Nothing wastes more time at work than computers.”

5) Used with adjectives (when used as nouns) or nationalities in a way similar to the
examples in 4)


"Youth is wasted on "the young!"
The English speak very bad English”
“People in the streets of English towns often use bad grammar, and have strong accents. This is often used to show how ‘tough’ or ‘working class’ they are.” Do you agree?

6) Used to speak about something made specific. A particular, identified, group.

The students in the drama class all shaved their heads for the photo shoot.”
Compare: “Students these days have very little free time.” (Students in general…. All students.)

7) Used with proper nouns (names) in noun + of + noun combinations, in examples like the following:
The Palace of Westminster
The University of London
Compare: Buckingham Palace / London University (adjective + noun, though there are exceptions, such as The British Museum.

8) Geography
Islands where there is more than one - the Seychelles, the West Indies
Compare: Madagascar, Cuba. (single islands)
Rivers, seas - the Amazon, the Pacific
Mountain ranges - the Alps, the Himalayas
Compare: Mount Everest, Mount Fuji (single mountains)
Regions: the Middle East, the Americas, the west of Europe
Compare: Central America, Western Europe (not used with eastern, western, northern, southern and central)
Countries with names including republic, united, etc.: The People's Republic of China,The United Kingdom.
Compare: example 1 below.


 
......................................................




The definite article (“the”) is NOT used:



1) With abstract nouns (such as feelings, emotions, things of the mind) when used in a general sense.
.....Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (observer) (but ugliness goes right to the bone!)


2) With plural concrete nouns (which you can see and touch) when used in a general sense.
.....I love kittens.



3) With materials.
.....You have a heart of stone!



4) With countries which have single "names"
.....Italy, China. (rather than The United States)


5) With games when used in a general sense.
.....I play tennis.

 

6) With meals when used in a general sense.
.....I like to eat breakfast in bed.

 

7) With bed / work / home when used in a general sense.
.....I'm going to bed.

 

8) With prison / college / church / hospital / university / school / college when used in a general sense. 
.....He went to school in London and prison in Paris.

9) With (Most) planet names.
....There may be water on Mars. (But note: the moon, the sun.)




Now scroll down to the exercise below..................





[ADVERT]
Put in "the " where necessary: 





Vocabulary
defiant - unafraid, refusing to be told what to do
pedestal - what the lion in the picture is sitting on
circus ringmaster - the controller of the circus ring (whose clothes you can see in the picture)
symbol - picture or sign (or in this case animal) representing something else.
courage - bravery, lack of fear
anarchy - desire to destroy the established order or government
graffiti - writing or drawing on walls, trains, etc.
plaster - the material the lion is made of
sculptures - the lion is an example of a sculpture by the artist Banksy
realia - things taken from real life. You may take them to illustrate a presentation, for example. The best presentation I ever saw was given by a woman talking about her grandfather. She brought his hat as an item of realia.

A lion stares defiantly out from his pedestal, having eaten a circus ringmaster. … lion is seen as a symbol of courage and strength in many societies, and has been used by … British and many other nations on their coins and bank notes.
Write your answer below(e.g. ... lion, or the lion.)[ANSWER]
The artist, Banksy, first became involved in street art in … 1980s. Often associated with … aims and ideals of … anarchy and … anti-capitalism, during … 1990s he became … most recognised graffiti artist in … Britain, and possibly in … world. [ANSWER]
… lion is made of … wood and … plaster, and was one of a number of works by the artist which were first exhibited together in … Bristol in … 2009 at … Royal Gallery. … sculptures, … paintings and … “realia” were all on show, and … popularity of … show took everyone by surprise.[ANSWER]

NOTES for the examples in this exercise:
“the” is normally used:

    1) For a type of animal (the tiger is a dangerous beast) or thing the computer makes more work than it saves). They can both also be used (with the same meaning) in the plural without an article (Tigers are dangerous beasts)
    2) For people of a nation (Nobody likes the English these days)
    3) For decades. (Many British pop groups became famous in the 1960s)
    4) For abstract nouns (things you can’t physically touch or feel) made specific by putting them in a category or context (the hopes and *ideals of *communism) Note that the article does not need to be repeated*. When the second element is more concrete (real) than abstract, the second element will also need to have a definite article. (the reaction to the exhibition)
    5) For superlatives. (The biggest boy in the class.)
    6) For things of which there is only one. (The moon.)
     7) .For any subject mentioned for the second time. (He was given a book.
            The book became his favourite possession.)
     8) .For specific buildings. (The White House)


“the” is normally NOT used:

9) ..For countries and towns. (Paris is in France) 
10) For abstract nouns used in a general sense. These don’t usually exist in the plural. (Beauty can be seen in the tiger’s movement) 
11) For concrete plural nouns used without specific identification. (To play the game, you will need bats, balls and protective equipment) 
12) For individual years. (President Kennedy was shot in 1963) 
13) For materials (The table is made of wood and metal)










[ADVERT]










Answers: (numbers refer to the relevant note in the list which follows)


A lion stares defiantly out from his pedestal, having eaten a circus ringmaster. The lion (1) is seen as a symbol of courage and strength in many societies, and has been used by the British (2) and many other nations on their coins and bank notes.
The artist, Banksy, first became involved in street art in the 1980s (3). Often associated with the aims (4) and ideals of anarchy (4) and anti-capitalism (4), during the 1990s (3) he became the most recognised (5) graffiti artist in Britain (9), and possibly in world (6).
The lion (7) is made of wood (13) and plaster (13), and was one of a number of works by the artist which were first exhibited together in Bristol (9) in 2009 (12) at the Royal Gallery (8). sculptures (11), paintings (11) and “realia” (11) were all on show, and the popularity (4) of the show (6) took everyone by surprise.


“the” is normally used:
1) For a type of animal (The tiger is a dangerous beast) or thing The computer makes more work than it saves). They can both also be used (with the same meaning) in the plural without an article (Tigers are dangerous beasts)
2) For people of a nation (Nobody likes the British these days)
3) For decades. (Many British pop groups became famous in the 1960s)
4) For abstract nouns (things you can’t physically touch or feel) made specific by putting them in a category or context (The hopes and *ideals of *communism) Note that the article does not need to be repeated*. When the second element is more concrete (real) than abstract, the second element will also need to have a definite article. (The reaction to the exhibition)
5) For superlatives. (The biggest boy in the class.)
6) For things of which there is only one. (The moon.)
7) .For any subject mentioned for the second time. (He was given a book.
             The book became his favourite possession.)
8) .For specific buildings. (The White House)

“the” is normally NOT used:

9) ..For countries and towns. (Paris is in France)
10) For abstract nouns used in a general sense. These don’t usually exist in the plural. (Beauty can be seen in the tiger’s movement)
11) For concrete plural nouns used without specific identification. (To play the game, you will need bats, balls and protective equipment)
12) For individual years. (President Kennedy was shot in 1963)
13) For materials (The table is made of wood and metal)



Summary


Too much information? Okay - here are the (6) most important rules from the lists above. These will account for 90% of all the use (or non-use) of the definite article in writing. Just make sure you remember these. In the answer space, put whether "the" should be "used" or "not used". If you aren't sure, go back up to the top and you can find the answers and examples in the original complete list.
With concrete nouns (which you can see and touch) in the plural (more than one) ,when used in a general sense.[ANSWER]
With materials.[ANSWER]
To represent a “class” or “type” of thing.[ANSWER]
To speak about something made specific: a particular identified group.[ANSWER]
With abstract nouns (such as feelings, emotions, things of the mind) when used in a general sense.[ANSWER]
When something is unique (only one).[ANSWER]




Photo Album
:




Text:
(Difficult items of vocabulary are followed by alternative meanings or explanations given in blue)


It's berry season. This means your chances of running into (meeting) a bear on the trail (path) are higher at this time of year.

Buffaloberry bushes are found throughout (everywhere in) the park, often bordering (at the side of) trails, roads and campgrounds. Both black (smaller) and grizzly bears (bigger, brown bear - see picture) are zeroing in on
(coming towards) this critical (very important) food source (supply point) right now.

It's easy to surprise a bear that is focussed on (concentrated on) eating berries. To reduce the risk of a bear encounter
(meeting):

* Make lots of noise while hiking (walking) or cycling on trails.
* Pay attention to your surroundings; look for fresh signs of bear activity, such as tracks (foot marks) and scat (where they've been to the toilet!).
* Be especially careful near buffaloberry patches.
* If you see a bear, back away slowly and leave the area.


Photo: Jasper National Park, British Columbia, Canada. On the right side, the text is given in French. Many people in (Eastern) Canada have French as their first language.

Note 1: We were told that if you meet a black bear you should punch it on the nose and it might run away. If you meet a grizzly bear (and it's hungry!) there's nothing you can do. If you lie down it will eat you. If you climb a tree it will climb the tree behind you and eat you. It is five times stronger than a man, and can run faster than the fastest Olympic athlete. So, if it wants to eat you, it will eat you, whatever you do.

Note 2: If a grizzly bear was to fight a lion, which do you think would win? In the last century, the cowboys of the "wild west" would organise such fights, and gamble money on the result. People who didn't know better would usually bet on the lion. But the bear could crush a lion's skull with a single blow, and would always win the fight.




Do you get it?


Vocabulary note
hiking - going for a long walk, maybe with backpacks and camping equipment

roar - load angry noise made, for example, by a bear

grizzly bear - bear of the type seen in the picture

hesitation - pause

swung - past participle of swing: to move in a curving or circular manner

yell - shout

stunned - shocked

Jim and Joe were hiking through the woods when suddenly they heard a roar behind them. Turning, they saw a massive grizzly bear heading towards them. He looked very angry and very hungry, both at the same time.

Without a moments hesitation, Jim swung his backpack down onto the ground and started to open it up.

"What are you doing?" yelled Joe. "We've got to get out of here!"

He watched in stunned silence as Jim reached deep inside the pack and pulled out a pair of running shoes.

"Running shoes! What use are running shoes?" asked Joe in amazement. "You'll never outrun a bear!"

"I don't need to outrun the bear," said Jim. "I just need to outrun you"



Grammar notes


"Out..." as used in "outrun" can be used as a prefix on a word to mean "more than, further" or "better". Other common examples: outlive, outbox, outreach (in boxing, where one man has longer arms than the other), outgrow, outlast, outnumber.

Sometimes the same prefix can simply be used to mean "out", as in: outdoor (outside the house), outcast (someone thrown out), outpatient (someone in hospital who is visiting, rather than staying overnight).



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