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Tutoring & Academic Success Centre

formerly known as The Learning Centre

Tutoring & Academic Success Centre

Zero Articles

Knowing when to use an article can be tricky, but knowing when NOT to use an article can be even trickier.

Remember that, in addition to some of the situations already listed, you’ll need an article when:

  • It’s unique
    • The Eiffel Tower
    • The Internet
  • Known to everyone
    • The World Wide Web
    • The Nile
  • Using particular time expressions
    • The week before last…
  • It answers (or implies) an answer to questions like why, when, how (etc) and makes it specific
    • The highway just north of Montreal. (Which way are you taking?)
  • It implies information or makes something specific
    • The problems (the ones we discussed)

In general, when you want to make a statement that is general or is an all statement (meaning that it includes all of the subject/object being discussed), you will need to omit the article.

For example: World politics are complicated!

However, you need to be aware that sometimes a statement which includes the concept of all actually implies specificity.

For example: The world politics discussed in class are complicated.

While “World politics” implies a concept of all (all world politics), the additional information “discussed in class” makes the world politics specific and therefore in need of an article.

You DO NOT need an article when…

  • Generalising or using general meaning
  • Using abstract nouns
    • Education, love
        • Education in Canada is…
        • “Love is a many splendored thing…”
          • Made specific:
            • The education system in Canada
            • The love that she feels for her children
  • Naming places in general
    • Canada, North America
        • Canada is in North America
          • Made specific:
            • The Canada of my youth is…
            • The North American dream…
  • Streets, squares, etc
    • Decarie Street, Ste-Croix Avenue, Carré St Louis
        • Vanier is located on Ste-Croix Avenue
  • Using Games or sports
    • Soccer, hockey, Nintendo
        • Many Canadians love hockey
          • Made specific:
            • We went to the hockey game last night
  • Naming languages
    • English, French
        • Many Montrealers speak both English and French
          • More specific:
            • The English language is more complicated than expected.
  • Referring to academic subjects
    • Biology, Macro Economics
        • I’m not doing very well in Macro-Economics.
          • Made specific:
            • The Biology course I took last semester was fascinating!
  • Talking about meals
    • Lunch, dinner
        • We’re meeting up for lunch
          • Made specific:
            • The lunch was catered by a local chef.
  • Referring to places we always go to
    • Bed, home, school
        • She’s at home
          • Made specific:
            • She goes to the school on the corner
  • Naming days, months, and sometimes seasons
    • Wednesday, May, Spring
        • Spring is one of my favourite seasons.
          • Made specific:
            • He was born in the Spring (also possible: He was born in Spring)
  • Making an exclamation with a countable or uncountable noun
    • News, idea, etc, etc…
    • That’s fantastic news! Great idea!
      • Made specific:
        • What a great idea! (Making the sentence plural would mean removing the article: What great ideas!)

Take into consideration that most zero article nouns are often made specific when they modify another noun. This might help you determine when you’ll need to add an article or not. However, keep in mind that there are always exceptions to the rules.