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Articles and Other Determiners
Edit Student Writing Samples: The following sentences were written by English language learners and contain errors in article and determiner use. Find the error and guess a correct answer. Then click the error to see if you guessed correctly. If the error is an unmarked noun phrase, click the noun phrase. Click the icon for further explanation.
1. I don't want to be in thesethis situation again. If someone cannot take theθ control himself, I will advise him. The demonstrative determiner must agree in number with the noun it modifies.
To take control of a situation is an idiom. There is no article [θ = zero article]
2. When I took driving exammy driving exam, I was nervous because I hadn't had enough practice. Driving exam is a singular count noun. All singular count nouns must be marked with a determiner. The writer could use my driving exam or the driving exam. 3. InterviewThe interview for green cardmy green card was stressful for me. Both interview and green card are singular count nouns. Read over sentences and find the singular nouns. Add the appropriate determiner.
For my green card makes the noun interview a definite noun. The writer was interviewing in order to get her green card. Therefore, the possessive determiner is appropriate.
4. I knew I had made athe right decision and my mother would forgive me because I did what I could to save someone's life. The writer is referring to a decision he or she already made. The previous information implied by the sentence makes the noun definite. 5. With a mountthe amount of money I gave my friend, her mother recovered. Amount is one word. The writer mistook the first syllable in the word for an article [aural English].
The noun amount is a definite noun because the phrase (of money) and the adjective clause that follow limit the noun.
6. When we stopped in ana restaurant, she never ate. The indefinite noun begins with a consonant. The writer used the wrong indefinite article. 7. My dream was to have good joba good job and make a lot of money. The writer omitted the necessary indefinite article before a singular count noun. 8. I learned to be more careful when choosing frienda friend. It's so easy to avoid these errors. Just find the singular count noun and add the appropriate article. The noun friend here is an indefinite noun with a general meaning...when choosing any friend. 9. I hit athe corner of a house. The phrase following corner limits the noun. He hit the corner of a house - not the corner of a building or any other kind of corner. And if he hit one corner, he really couldn't have hit another. 10. All of these changes weren't easy for aan eight-year-old boy. The noun phrase following the article begins with a vowel [eight]. The writer used the wrong indefinite article. 11. When I was ready to go to theθ high school, my parents told me that I would have to stop studying. There is zero article before school, high school, college, church, and tohome. This is idiomatic.
We go to school.
We go to college.
We go to church.
We GO HOME. [no preposition or article]
12. Another important value is respect, for theθ respect relates to honesty. Perhaps the writer was thinking of the second mention rule. But respect is an uncountable general noun in both clauses. Zero article before a general noun. 13. Even the stranger can be good persona good person. The writer correctly uses "stranger" in its general sense [the stranger]. But an indefinite article is necessary before the indefinite count noun...a good person. 14. After whilea while, I decided to take some courses. The writer failed to hear the article with the time expression, after a while.
Written as one word, awhile is an adverb, as in "We waited awhile for the train."
When it follows a preposition, it functions as a noun and is written as two words. "We waited for a while."
15. His decidion had aθ short and long term effects. The noun effects is plural and plural nouns never take an indefinite article.
The writer could use both short and long term effects.
16. It would be great to make such positivea positive decision. The writer failed to hear the article that goes with the intensifier such a or such an when it modifies a singular count noun.
...such a positive decision
such an honest man
17. Out-of-state residents in the United States who want to live in theθ California should get free education at community college. Never use a definite article with the name of a country, state, city, etc. unless it's part of the title. 18. If California residents have a good education, they will make our Californiathe state strong economically and socially. It sounds strange to use a possessive determiner before the name of a state. Use the definite article and a synonym. [They will make the state (or our state) strong, but never " our" California.] 19. Education helps people to change thetheir lives and succeed. Informal usage requires the plural possessive determiner before the plural noun...their lives. 20. It is the a good policy to charge tuition and fees. Charging tuition and fees is one policy. The indefinite article is necessary...a good policy. 21. Free college education is athe best way to keep students in school. There may be many good ways to keep students in school, but offering free education may be THE BEST WAY.
Always use the definite article before a superlative adjective as the superlative makes the noun unique.
22. Many students have to leave theθ school becaue they have to work. Therefore, colleges lose asome very important people. Use Zero article before school...Many leave school
People is a plural noun and cannot be determined by an indefinite article. The writer could use some or another quantifier.
23. ThisThese classes cost me a lot of money because I had to take more than 12 units. Use the plural demonstrative determiner before a plural noun [these classes]. 24. Anyone who is willing to help the othersothers will gain knowledge from the othersthem. Others is an indefinite pronoun in the context of the sentence. The error has more to do with pronoun use than article use.
The others is the definite pronoun.
Mary helped some children. Bob helped others. [We don't know how many children there were or if they were all helped.]
There were 15 children. Mary helped some of them. Bob helped the others. [This sentence tells us that Bob helped all of the remaining children.
25. TheA popular Russian proverb states, "one mind is good, but two are better." There are many Russian proverbs. One of them states this. The indefinite article is necessary.