Hello and welcome to LetThemTalk and I hope you're doing well and staying
healthy wherever you are. Recently I've been reaching out to you on YouTube
and on Instagram for your grammar questions. Thank you for all your
questions and today I'm going to answer the most common grammar question of them
all. One that I get again and again and again and that is ......The correct use of
articles. When to use the definite article, the indefinite article and no
article at all. English can sometimes be confusing. Some
languages such as Russian and Japanese and Chinese and Swahili they don't have
articles. Come to think of it, why do we even have them in English? Why can't we
say "I have banana"? Why do we have to say "I have a banana?" Does that add anything
to our understanding? I'm talking to you English language. Well it is what it is
and today we're going to look at the advanced points only (more or less) I'm
hoping that you already know the basics. Beginners we love you but this video is
not for you. Come back later on. Yes we will cover the basics but only we're
only going to do that very, very briefly. Just to get the whole picture and the
rest of the time we're going to look at your common mistakes and fix them. So
First an important point about pronunciation. the letter is called A but
it's almost always pronounced [eh] the word is called AN but it's almost always
pronounced [ehn] the only time you would say A or AN is when you are
stressing it in a sentence and, really, why would you do that? You're much more
likely to stress the adjective or the noun. a banana not, A banana a delicious
banana. however I'll give you an example of a
rare case when you would stress A. "this is A question but it's not the question."
"A is the definite article and the first word in the dictionary the second word
is aardvark." this leads me on to my second point. THE before a consonant and
[thee] before a vowel or, again, on the rare occasion you're stressing THE then you
would put [thee] before the continent as well. example "I met a guy in a pub called Paul
- "what THEE Paul McCartney?"
- "No not THEE Paul McCartney this one cuts the
grass in the cemetery"
So the articles, the basics very, very quickly.
The basics I'm just going to do this in a few seconds. You can skip it if
you want to. Anyway A and AN or used before singular, countable nouns A, AN
for the introduction of a new thing or a thing in general. I return to my banana
"This is a banana, sometimes I eat a banana for breakfast"
That is an ambulance outside.
Plurals have no indefinite article "bananas are
delicious." "We have bananas in the house." Now for the
specific thing, the one we already discussed we
use"THE banana." "This is banana I'm going to eat with my coffee." Plural "the
bananas." "The bananas" - here you are the lots of bananas today - "the bananas I bought from
the supermarket are yellow." Surprisingly. Uncountable things happen no articles
"Coffee is tasty," "soup is good for you." You can use a definite article
before an uncountable noun when we mean the thing that we've already talked about.
the definite article is okay "the soup I had for lunch." ""The salt is on the table."
Now we're on to the advanced points, finally, let's go with that. Things that
are uncountable do not take A or AN now the advanced point is that, remember that,
Some words in English are uncountable but they might be countable in your
language. There are lots of examples of these so be careful. So in these cases
never use A or AN before them for example information never say "I have an
information," "I have the information" that's fine
"I have some information" that's okay "I have information" okay "I have two
informations" no it's uncountable "I have two pieces of information". There is no
plural of information "informations" doesn't exist
it's uncountable and that's a common mistake lots more examples of those
types of words in English. ADVICE uncountable never say "I have an advice" "I
have some advice." "I have a piece of advice."
that's okay. There is no plural of ADVICE "Advices" doesn't exist its uncountable.
Count with pieces. Two pieces of advice. two good piece of advice. NEWS
never say "a news," "some news," "a piece of news" other words that never take the
indefinite article: Furniture, equipment, gossip, research, money, luggage, bread don't
say "a luggage" there's more LUCK don't say "I had a luck" no "I had a stroke of
luck today" and for more information on how to count these uncountable nouns
watch the video up here. Professions and roles. To talk about a profession or a
role use the indefinite article. "he's an engineer," "she's an accountant," "she's a
grandmother." Common mistake "I'm teacher" no, no, no "I'm a teacher" that's correct. In
general if we're talking about uncountable or plural things, in general,
use no article. Let's look at some examples of that. "Freedom is better than
imprisonment." "I miss the freedom I had when I was a student."
!women read more books than men"
"the woman outside has a green hat."
"Chimpanzees don't understand irony."
"The chimpanzee in London Zoo can do The Times crossword." With abstract
ideas remember don't use an article when talking about them in general. "Beauty is
in the eye of the beholder."
"The democracy is something worth fighting for." Is that
right no it's not, no, it's an abstract idea. No article. "Democracy is something
worth fighting for." That's better
For meals there's no article "let's have
breakfast." "Let's have lunch."
For sports no article "I like football", "jogging is good
for you." That's what they say.
For games don't put an article "he plays chess to a
high level," "I like go" do you know the game of go? However with
animals, plants, musical instruments and a few scientific inventions you can make a
generalization with THE and a singular noun for example. "the giraffe is an
African animal with a long neck." "The chimpanzee is the closest human relative."
"The ukulele is normally made of wood." "the smartphone has changed our lives." if we
are talking about a typical example of one of these things we use A or AN for
example "a giraffe does not make a very good pet." So I'm talking about this
imaginary giraffe in my house not all giraffes in general. "A chimpanzee does
not make a very good dinner guest." "A smartphone is not a good gift for a
five-year-old child." "A ukulele is a musical instrument
which is good for those with little background in music." You can also use
plurals to express the same idea with no article so, going back to my earlier
example "Giraffes do not make good pets." "smartphones are not good gifts for
five-year-old children." etc
For superlatives use THE "this is
the funniest joke I've ever heard." "You are the best singer in the world."
for the physical environment
use THE the wind, the sea, the weather, the town, the country,
the night, the universe, the rain, the mountains. "the rain falls hard on a
humdrum town." "we joined the Navy to see the world but what did we see we saw the
sea." However, we say SPACE not "the space." "The rocket went into space." and we say
NATURE not "the nature." I love nature do you love nature?
Now talking about nationalities, "Canadians love maple syrup while the
British love Marmite." What's going on here?
Why have CANANDIANS have no article but it's THE BRITISH? The peoples of
some countries have an adjective and a corresponding noun. For example, an
Italian opera, but she's an Italian. An Indian movie and he's an Indian. OK
American Cuban German and several other nationalities are adjectives and nouns.
English is an adjective but it's not a noun for the people. To make it a
noun you have to put THE in front of the adjective. The English. French, the
French, the Japanese. "The French like wine while Germans prefer beer." You can put
THE before GERMANS but it's not necessary. A common mistake I hear is the addition of
PEOPLE after the nation adjective when you're generalizing for example. "Swiss
people like to climb mountains." "people" is redundant here just say the
Swiss. "The Swiss like to climb mountains." Don't say "when I was in the States
I spent most of my time with American people." do say "when I was in the States
I spent most of my time with Americans."
Country names are not generally preceded
by THE; Pakistan, Indonesia, Belgium. however, some countries, especially those
divided into states are preceded by THE: The Netherlands, the UK, The U.S,. The
Philippines. Be careful this list changes over time we still aren't sure whether
to say Ukraine or The Ukraine a few years ago it was The Ukraine but not
much now. Read old books and they talk about The Argentine
now not anymore we just say Argentina. Hello Argentina.
Mountains have no
article before them. "I climbed Everest." "You can see Mont Blanc from here." mountain
ranges, on the other hand, take THE. the Andes, the Himalayas, the Alps
some common places do not take articles it's as if
they are uncountable/ For
example SCHOOL. "I went to school today" but if you're talking about a specific
one not a place of education in general, then you can use THE. "I went to the
school at the top of the road." WORK. "I leave work at 6 p.m. every day" not "the
work." HOME "I will arrive home soon." COLLEGE. "I'll see you at college." PRISON
"He killed a man and now he's in prison."
HOSPITAL in British English you say "he
fell down stairs and now he is in hospital."
however, in American English, they do say THE HOSPITAL.
BED "I'm tired I'm going to bed."
Which means I'm going to sleep even if it's not in a bed but for a single
instance of the thing then you can say THE BED "I left my coat on the bed" ok
CLASS. "See you in class." The meaning changes if you say THE CLASS then it means
classroom "I left my umbrella in the class." ok you
got it? Noun modifiers: When a noun modifiers
another noun don't put an article in front of the phrase. So for example "I'm
taking English lessons with LetThemTalk." Not "the English lessons." In English
we usually use possessive to talk about parts of the body.. "She grabbed my arm." "I
hurt my leg." "I brush my teeth every day.." "You should wash your hands very often."
However, when a body part comes into contact with an outside object we often
use THE after a preposition. Let me give you an example and you'll see
what I mean. "The cricket ball hit me on the arm." ":Look at me in the eye." "He punched
me in the teeth."
Musical instruments: In British English use the definite
article "the guitar," "the violin," "the piano" in American English the article is
sometimes dropped, "she plays guitar"
Use THE to talk about things that are unique
or the only one that we have of something.
For example, the moon, there is only one moon, I think, the Sun, the world, the internet, the
government, "the Burton's are coming to dinner." Which means the Burton family
they are the only Burton family around here so we can use THE and it can
be pluralized. The Burtons
Social groups use THE before the name of
a social group, the rich, the poor, the unemployed, the elderly, the young, the
disabled. "We need to find jobs for the unemployed." "We must provide easy access
for the disabled." A common mistake I hear is the addition of the word "people" after
the adjective. "We must provide easy access for disabled people." no, not really
The word "people" is redundant, you don't need it. "Rich people should pay more
taxes." is that correct? Well it's better to say "the rich should pay more taxes."
Sounds better doesn't it?
Before BOTH and ALL we don't normally put THE. "Do you
like bananas or tangerines?"
"I like both." Don't say "I like the both." I hear
that all the time it's not correct. What about this? "Do you like bananas, tangerines or
melons." What's the answer?
"I like all three." That's right, very good.
After BOTH we can use THE but it is often omitted before a noun. "both the
books were interesting." or "both books were interesting." It's the same.
Days, months, seasons.
We say "last week," "next week," "last February," "next February," when we are
talking in general about a recent or future time. A common mistake I hear is
to say "the last week" No, that's not right. "I saw him last week" not "I saw him the
last week." Okay "See you next Tuesday." "It was a cold, February morning." However if
we add more information in order to describe a particular day or a month
then we add THE. "this is the last week before the holiday." "I was quite nervous
on the Tuesday before the exam." "It was the February before the revolution."
Television media and the arts: My friend was on TV, he played a bank
robber in a detective series. My friend was on the TV but he fell off and broke
his leg. So if you're performing for television
then there is no article. You're on TV. or you're on television. The TV is the
physical object in your house okay so you put something, you put a plant on the
TV. Strangely this is not the same for radio "I was on the radio talking about
bla bla bla." If you're talking about TV as a form of entertainment and not
the object don't put THE. "Do you watch TV? do you
watch a lot of TV?" "She worked in TV for many years." For
other mediums of entertainment you can talk about them without THE. I love
cinema, I love art, I like photography, I love theatre, in fact I worked in theatre
for several years but if you talk about a specific one then you use THE "I went
to the cinema last Saturday night."
Units and measurements: In
some expressions about measurements we use BY THE for example "we sell milk by
the litre." "This hotel you can pay by the hour." "taxis charge by the mile." However,
when you're comparing one measurement against another you can use A or AN. I
learn English three times a week. A common mistake I hear is to use BY "I
drink coffee three times by day." No, no, that's wrong "three times a day." if you
want to be more formal you could use PER actually, in this case. "I upload the file
five times per month" or "a month" It's the same. So PER is okay but not BY
when we're talking about quantities of uncountable and plural nouns we can use
SOME and ANY "I've got some bananas" in the negative use ANY "I don't have any
oranges." However SOME and ANY can usually be dropped without any change of meaning.
"I've got bananas." "I want bread." "I haven't got time." "I
haven't got any time." "he's bald." "He hasn't got any hair."
"He hasn't got hair." It's the same. Okay by the way, there is a difference between
TIME and THE TIME. TIME is uncountable so it takes no article "we're wasting time."
Time is a concept. However we say the
time to mean the hour of the day. "what's the time?" "I don't know I haven't got the time."
And finally there are different rules in newspaper headlines. Often the articles are dropped
"Man dies in Himalayas avalanche." which in standard writing is "a man died
in an avalanche in the Himalayas." Well we'll talk about newspaper headlines in
more detail another time. It's beyond the scope of this video.
to learn the rules the best way, of course, is to listen and practice as much
as possible. Most native speakers won't know these rules but they will use them
instinctively. So if you're constantly reading and listening and speaking you
will eventually pick them up. However it's a good idea to have the rules as a
guideline to refer to them if you're not sure. Anyway, so there you are, take care,
stay healthy, wash your hands, don't eat bat and see
you next time.