Welcome to the Grammar Gameshow! Test your knowledge in this crazy quiz! The presenter is a bit strange, the points don’t make sense and the prizes could use some improvement, but at least the grammar is correct!

Two more unknowing contestants step up to the podiums this week! And, what’s this? They’re a married couple! How will that affect things? Maybe they’ll be the best team ever! Will isn’t so sure. This week they test themselves against the grammar of articles! Those tiny little words comprisng the definite, indefinite and the zero that help us to define our nouns. Will they win through? Can they learn to understand articles… or each other for that matter! Will will be patient? Find out all in this episode of the Grammar Gameshow!

Articles appear before nouns. There are three types of article. The indefinite article, a or an, is used with singular countable nouns. The zero article is used with plural countable nouns and uncountable nouns. The definite article, the, is used with nouns which are understood and known about by both the speaker and listener – a kind of shared knowledge. We do not use an article in combination with a determiner, such as my, your his, her etc. There is no: it’s a my cat.

Do you have a pen?
I’ve got rice left. Shall we cook?
I saw a nice toy in the shop.
Sorry, I don’t drink coffee.

The indefinite article
The indefinite article, a or an, is used before singular countable nouns only. It is used to introduce a noun to a listener the first time we mention it in conversation. It is also used with nouns involved in descriptions, classifications and definitions – especially when talking about a person’s job – and finally, when we talk about a thing but do not need or wish to be specific.

When I was in London, I went to a park. In the park, I saw a boy. The boy was playing with a ball…
I’d never seen such a beautiful car! We had a really lovely day!
Tigers are an animal that live in India. John is a conservationist who lives there.
Do you have a pen? I don’t care what colour, I just need a pen!

The zero article
The zero article is used before plural countable nouns and uncountable nouns. We also use it before certain ‘special’ nouns such as home, bed, meals and in many cases work. Finally, when we talk about things in general we use the zero article.

These trees are beautiful. It’s so nice out here. Fresh air is wonderful.
I’ll meet you at home later. I’ve got work to do and I might miss dinner, so see you in bed?
Life can be hard for many people, but the life of Sebastian was harder than most.

The definite article
The definite article, the, is used with singular, plural and uncountable nouns when both the speaker and listener know and understand which noun is being spoken about. This may be because it has been introduced already in conversation or it is obvious from the context or people’s experience. For example, when we think of an aeroplane, we automatically assume there will be a pilot. We also use the definite article to talk about things which are unique, such as the Sun. This includes superlatives, since a superlative talks about the best, and there can only be one!

When I was in London, I went to a park. In the park, I saw a boy. The boy was playing with a ball…
Once we had arrived on board, the pilot delivered his good morning message.
Can you pass me the pen, please? It’s on the table. There’s only one.
The Sun is a giant ball of gas. It lights the solar system.
That was the tastiest meal I’ve ever had!

Institutions are places where some kind of service takes place, for example universities, hospitals, churches, schools, prisons etc. When we talk about them, it is possible to use the indefinite article, zero article or definite article depending on our meaning. There can be a big difference between being ‘in the hospital’, which refers to the place, and being ‘in hospital’ which means part of the mechanism or service. If you are in hospital, it is implied that you are injured and are being treated.

There is a hospital in the next town.
Can you meet me at the hospital with some books please, I will need to stay there with him tonight.
Anne is going to be in hospital for the next few days. She has an infection.

For more information, a quiz and other episodes, visit: https://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/course/tgg/unit-1/session-29

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