Article Uses for Noun Subcategories

Among different noun subcategories, article has some special and separate uses from generic rule, here introduce proper noun, abstract noun, and mass noun's use cases.

Note Topics:MorphologyThe NounThe ArticleThe Pronoun
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 By Jiabao Hors
Article Special Uses for Noun Subcategories
1. Article and Proper Noun
In general, proper noun doesn't need article because proper noun is always specific. If noun phrase's core is proper noun, it doesn't needs article for same reason. Please view following examples:

1.1. Person name : such as:

  • Jack
  • Johnson Lew
  • Little Lee
  • Mary de Bohun
  • Mark Antony

1.2. Place name : such as:

  • Vancouver
  • Russia
  • North Surrey
  • Arizona
  • Tucson

1.3. Street name : such as:

  • Fleet Street
  • Riverside Avenue
  • Park Lane
  • King George Boulevard
  • Argyle Drive

1.4. Name of square, station, airport, bridge, or park : such as:

  • Times Square
  • Central Station
  • Stanley Park
  • Kennedy Airport
  • Waterloo Bridge

1.5. Name of university : such as:

  • Oxford University
  • Harvard University
  • Oregon State University
  • Douglass College
  • University of California

1.6. Name of time, day, or festival : such as:

  • April (Apr.)
  • Monday
  • New Year's Day
  • Easter
  • Thanksgiving

1.7. Others : such as:

  • English
  • Congress
  • Parliament
  • Benz (car)
But, we may see a few exceptions among them, for example:
  • the Vatican(place)
  • the High Street(street)
  • the Red Square(square)
  • the Golden Gate Bridge(bridge)
  • the University of Arizona(school)
Actually there is no generic rule to decide use or not use article on proper nouns. We have to learn and accumulate one by one. We summarize several cases below, which prefer to USE definite article in front of proper noun. Reversely they also have exceptions that Don't USE article.

1.8. Special place names : such as:

  • the Netherlands
  • the Vatican
  • the Balkans
  • the Hague
  • the Ukraine
  • the Caucasus
  • the Crimea
  • the Sahara
  • the Sudan
  • the Yemen
Most of place name don't need article, as 1.1

1.9. Names of geographic object : some names of river, sea, ocean, mountains, islands, strait, channel, and lake, such as

  • the Fraser River
  • the Hudson River
  • the Pearl River
  • the Red Sea
  • the Mediterranean
  • the Indian Ocean
  • the Pacific Ocean
  • the Arctic
  • the Rocky Mountains
  • the Philippines
  • the West Indies
  • the English Channel
  • the Taiwan straits
  • the Bay of Biscay
  • the Gulf of Mexico
  • the Great Salt Lake
A few mounts and lakes' names are without article.

1.10. Proper noun consists of common noun : to express nation, organization, school, building, and newspaper, such as:

  • the United States
  • the United Kingdom
  • the United Nations
  • the General Assembly
  • the Security Council
  • the Republican Party
  • the British Museum
  • the Victoria Chest Hospital
  • the Bronx Zoo
  • the University of Washington
  • the Pentagon (building)
  • the Titanic (ship)
  • the Hilton (hotel)
  • the New York Times
  • the Washington Post
  • the Economist (weekly newspaper)
  • the Times (newspaper)
It isn't a generic rule, following names without article:
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Newsweek (newspaper)
  • U.S. News and World Report (newspaper)
  • Reader's Digest

1.11. Person name to specify certain one : not common but useful to express a specific object. For example:

  • The Smith you are looking for no longer lives here.
  • The theory was advanced by the great Einstein.

1.12. Use indefinite article : to express unspecific object or a type of something, it works for some proper nouns too. For example:

  • The car was a Buick, not a Benz.
  • A Miss Green is waiting to see you.
  • What a strange London he saw!
  • My boss is a little Napoleon.
2. Article and Abstract Noun

2.1 Abstract noun generally doesn't need article : even if it is with adjective. For example:

  • Practice makes perfect.
  • While there is life there is hope.
  • He cared little for social life. (with adjective)
  • This party gave me particular joy. (with adjective)

2.2 Article also used to specify abstract noun : especially it is has limiting attribute. Following examples contrast with or without definite article:

  • He went on playing the music of Mozart.
    (She is a passion of music.)
  • What is the result of your investigation?
    (I worked all day, but without result.)
When adding article to noun, including abstract noun, we should tell the difference of limiting attribute and descriptive attribute.
  • Limiting Attribute is to specify a certain object, usually used by "of", its noun should use specific "the";
  • Descriptive Attribute is unspecific attribute, usually use "a" or "an" to express one, one class or style.
For example:
  • I like the idea you just said.
  • It's a wonderful idea.

2.3 Indefinite article used to abstract noun : as part of descriptive attribute to express one, one type, one class, one time, or one instance. For example:

  • He had a strong dislike for cold weather.
  • It was a just war.
  • Do you care for a smoke?
  • He is a shame to his family.
  • You are a great help to us.
3. Article and Mass Noun

3.1 Mass noun generally doesn't need article : even if it is with adjective. For example:

  • We cannot live without air.
  • They are digging for gold.
  • We expect snow before morning.
  • Is that Indian tea or Chinese tea? (with adjective)
  • Is this fresh water? (with adjective)
  • Heavy snow is reported in the east. (with adjective)

3.2 Definite article used for mass noun : to express specific object. For example:

  • It's cold, don't stand in the rain.
  • Do you like the tea?
  • The air is fresh.
  • John is swimming in the water.

3.3 Indefinite article used to mass noun : to express one, one type, one class, one instance, or one piece. For example:

  • There is a light rain falling.
  • The bakery makes a very fine bread.
  • Give me a large coffee.
  • I want a strawberry ice-cream.