NTUT Academic Writing: Grammar Drills. When/How to Use Articles Correctly. I. Indefinite Articles: a/an A/an is used when we refer to one general item , an unknown item, or one of many items. Ex. I have a cat. (unknown to listener until now)
I. Indefinite Articles: a/an
A/an is used when we refer to one general item, an unknown item, or one of many items.
Ex. I have a cat. (unknown to listener until now)
A teacher must be fair to students. (any teacher at all)
She’s an architect. (as a type or group)
Generally, when we mention some thing for the FIRST time, we use the indefinite article a.
Ex. A newspaper has an obligation to seek out and tell the truth.
After that, we use the to refer to the same paper.
Ex. There are situations, however, when the newspaper must determine whether the public's safety is jeopardized by knowing the truth.
Exception: if a modifier (adjective) comes between a and the noun, keep the indefinite article in the subsequent sentences.
Ex. "I'd like a big glass of orange juice, please," John said."I put a big glass of juice on the counter already," Shiela replied.
The is used before singular and plural nouns when they refer to a specific entity, group, or physical environment.
(use the as if to answer the question “which”)
Ex. Did you lock the door? (the listener knows which door)
The tiger is in danger of becoming extinct. (all tigers/the entire tiger family.
The weather is nice today. (physical environment)
In addition, the is used in the following ways:
(a). To refer to things known to all ( the sun/earth, etc.)
(b). To refer to things that are unique (the White House)
(c). To refer to time (the past/present/future)
(d). Specific locations (the Sound, the Sea of Japan, the
Mississippi, the West, the Smokies, the Sahara )
Netherlands, the Bahamas, the Hamptons, the
Johnsons, the Yankees)
(f). Specific institutions (the Sheraton, the House, the
Presbyterian Church )
(g). Newspapers (the Hartford Courant, the Times )
(h). Noun phrases beginning with of (the leader of the
gang, the president of our club )
(i). Use with the superlative, such as the first, the last,
and with other words, next, same, and only (He’s
the tallest student in our class.)
(a). A/an is not used before an uncountable noun (I like to
drink milk.) If a quantity of milk is specified, then the article
would be used (I like to drink a glass of milk before I go to
bed. We like wine with our dinner. We adore Baroque music.)
(b). Nouns that represent abstract general concept do not take a
or an before them (Love is a difficult emotion to describe in
words. Money alone cannot buy happiness.)
(c). The is not used when a plural noun is used in a general
sense (Computers are helpful tools for writers. We use roses
for many purposes) As opposed to specific groups (The
computers in that classroom are used for writing class.) If
these generic terms are subsequently mentioned, the should
be added (The Data Center installed computers in the
Learning Center this summer. The computers, unfortunately,
the is need when “Chinese” denotes a people (The
Chinese have three main festivals every year.)
(e). Sports and academic subjects (She plays badminton
and basketball. She's taking economics and math. Her
major is Religious Studies.)
(f). Verb phrases using “be” and “go” (We'll go by train. –As
opposed to–We'll take the train. He must be in school.)
(g). Social, educational, or public institutions (He's in
(h). The four seasons (In spring, we like to clean the house.)
(i). Daily meals (Breakfast was delicious. He's preparing
dinner by himself.)
killed him. She has cancer.)
(k). Time (We traveled mostly by night. We'll be there
Some & Any:
That is SOME car you've got there!
I don't want to hear ANY excuse!
(not accentuated): do not modify singular, countable nouns
That is SOME car you've got there!
I don‘t want to hear ANY excuse!
Because passive sentence are usually longer and harder to read, using too many can make your writing slow and uninteresting. Active sentences, on the other hand, are generally clearer, more direct, and seem stronger. However, this does not mean you should stop using passive sentences.
Suggestions about when to use passive sentences:
1. When the action is more important than the doer:
Ex. The theater was opened last month.New students are invited to meet the dean in Room 126.
2. When the receiver of the action is more important than the doer:
Ex. Everyone was given a key to the gym. The letters were faxed this morning.
Ex. Our advice was followed by our clients. The new computers were installed by the system staff.
4. When you don’t know the doer, don’t care, or don’t want your reader to know:
Ex. A mistake was made, and all the scholarship application files. This report was written at the last minute.
5. When you want to sound objective:
Ex. The pigeons were observed over a period of three weeks. The subjects were divided into three groups.
(Use passive sentences only when you want to emphasize something important.)
(I). Too many long sentences:
The following sentence may be confusing to read because of its length:
My favorite place to visit is my grandparents’ house near the lake where we love to fish and swim, and we often take the boat out on the lake.
(Breaking the sentence into two can make your writing clearer and more interesting.)
My favorite place to visit is my grandparents’ house near the lake. We love to fish and swim there, and we often take the boat out on the lake.
A good style often involves the combination of both short and long sentences. (Take note: short sentences do not denote short-wittedness; longer ones neither show intellectual maturity.) See the following example:
Benjamin Franklin, who was one of America’s “founding fathers,” helped write the Declaration of Independence. He also invented many things such as bifocals and the Franklin stove, and he discovered electricity. Think about that discovery! Where would we be without electricity?
Paragraphs composed only of long sentences can be confusing:
Benjamin Franklin, who was one of America’s “founding fathers,” helped write the Declaration of Independence. He also invented many things such as bifocals and the Franklin stove, and he discovered electricity, which became very important to modern life.
Too many short sentences often makes the writing sound choppy:
I knew my friends would throw me a party. It was for my birthday. There was something in the air. I felt it for a whole week before that. I was nervous. I was also very excited. I got home that night. My friends didn’t disappoint me. I walked in my house. All my friends yelled, “surprise!”
To improve the above paragraph, you should join some of the short sentences using connectors.
Because it was my birthday, I knew my friends would through me a party. There was something in the air for a whole week before that. I was nervous but excited when I got home that night. I wasn’t disappointed. When I walked in my house, all my friends yelled, “Surprise!”
What is the obvious problem of the following sentence?
“Many uneducated citizens who have never attended school continue to vote for better schools.”
List of words/phrases that be made simpler:
12 midnight →midnight; 3 am in the morning →3 am;
a person who is honest → an honest person;
a total of 14 birds → 14 birds; circle around →circle;
close proximity → proximity; cooperate together;
each and every →each; end result → result;
exactly the same→ the same; important/basic essentials;
in spite of the fact that → although; in the field of economics → in economics; new innovations;
personally, I think/feel; personal opinion → opinion;
shorter/longer in length → shorter/longer;
small/large in size → small/large;
square/round/rectangular in shape →square/round/rectangular;
summarize briefly →summarize;
surrounded on all sides → surrounded;
surrounding circumstances → circumstances;
the future to come → the future;
there is no doubt but that → no doubt;
Please do not make the same mistakes again:
ATM machine; HIV virus (Human Immunodeficiency Virus ) AIDS syndrome (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome ); CPU unit; VCR (Video Cassette Recorder).
1. “All things considered”:
All things considered, Connecticut's woodlands are in better shape now than ever before.Connecticut's woodlands are in better shape now than ever before.
2. “As a matter of fact”:
As a matter of fact, there are more woodlands in Connecticut now than there were in 1898.There are more woodlands in Connecticut now than there were in 1898.
3. “At the present time”:
This is because there are fewer farmers at the present time.This is because there are fewer farmers now.
4. “Because of the fact that”:
Woodlands have grown in area because of the fact that farmers have abandoned their fields.Woodlands have grown in area because farmers have abandoned their fields.
The fear that exists among many people that we are losing our woodlands is uncalled for.The fear among many people that we are losing our woodlands is uncalled for.
6. “For the most part”:
For the most part, people's suspicions are based on a misunderstanding of the facts.People's suspicions are based on a misunderstanding of the facts.
7. “In my opinion”:
In my opinion, this wasteful policy ought to be revoked.This wasteful policy ought to be revoked.
8. “In the case of”:
In the case of this particular policy, citizens of northeast Connecticut became very upset.Citizens of northeast Connecticut became very upset about his policy.
In the final analysis, the state would have been better off without such a policy.The state would have been better off without such a policy.
10. “In the process of”:
Legislators are already in the process of reviewing the statutes.Legislators are already reviewing the statutes.
11. “It seems that”:
It seems that they can't wait to get rid of this one.They can't wait to get rid of this one.
12. “The point I am trying to make”:
The point I am trying to make is that sometimes public policy doesn't accomplish what it set out to achieve.Sometimes public policy doesn't accomplish what it set out to achieve.
13. “Type of”:
Legislators need to be more careful of the type of policy they propose.Legislators need to be more careful of the policy they propose.
1. “And also”: simply use one or the other;
2. “And/or”: illogical use; must determine using one or the other;
3. “As to whether”: Simply “whether” will do;
4. “Basically/essentially/totally”: nonsensical usage either in writing or
5. “Equally as”: should write “equally important” or “as important as”
6. “etc.”: shows laziness; illustrate as much as you can;
7. “Firstly, secondly, thirdly…”: delete –ly suffixes;
8. “Interesting”: this is one of the “least interesting” of all English
adjectives; should try whatever you can to describe why it is so;
9. “kind of/sort of”: in formal writing, use somewhat, rather orslightly
instead; Ex. We were rather pleased with the results.
10. “Lots of/a lot of”: use many or much in formal writing;
12. “Try and”: use try to do something, not try and do….;
13. “Plus”: use and or moreover instead as conjunction;
14. “Very, really, quite (and other intensifiers)”: these words help little in clarifying your ideas;
1. Dangling Modifier:
A. When using participial phrases as modifiers:
Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, the car seemed to run better. Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, Fred found he could get much better gas mileage.
B. Participial phrases cannot be combined with expletive constructions (it… , there…):
Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, there is an easy way to keep your car running smoothly.
If we change the oil every 3,000 miles, we can keep our car running smoothly.
C. Participial phrases cannot be combined with passive verbs either:
Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, the car was kept in excellent condition.
Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, we kept the car in excellent condition.
To keep the young recruits interested in getting in shape, an exercise program was set up for the summer months.
To keep the young recruits interested in getting in shape, the coaching staff set up an exercise program for the summer months.
E. Squinting modifier: adverb can be placed nearly everywhere in a sentence, thus causing ambiguity:
Students who seek their instructors' advice often can improve their grades.
Student who often seek their instructors' advice can improve their grades.
Students who seek their instructors' advice can often improve their grades.
1. Adverbial phrases modify the subject, not serve as one:
Although the season has not yet begun has caused the public to get over anxious for information about the team.
Although the season has not yet begun, the public is overly anxious for information for information about the team.
2. Prepositional phrases modify the subject, not serve as one:
In its attempt to spark sales of season tickets broke several rules about pre-season publicity.
In its attempt to spark sales of season tickets, the basketball program broke several rules about pre-season publicity.
The basketball program's attempt to spark sales of season tickets broke several rules about pre-season publicity.
3. Two “subjects” in one sentence without subordination or modification:
The new system of student registration, we began to use it in the fall.
We began to use the new system of student registration in the fall.
By devising carefully worded forms ahead of time made the registrar's job much easier.
Devising carefully worded forms ahead of time made the Registrar's job much easier.
5. Adverbial clauses do not serve as the subject of a sentence:
Even if students' records are lost in the shuffle of registration does not mean they will have to start the process over.
Even if students' records are lost in the shuffle of registration, they will not necessarily have to start the process over.
Students do not have to start the process over if their records are lost in the registration shuffle.
6. “Reason” means “why” or “because”: Do not use phrases such as “the reason why is because” or “the reason is because”:
The reason they were so eager to sell tickets is because they're trying to refurbish the old house.
The reason they were so eager to sell tickets is that they're trying to refurbish the old house.
They were so eager to sell tickets because they're trying to refurbish the old house.
To encourage the recruits to blend in with veteran players, the coaches let them play in summer leagues.
The coaches let the recruits play in summer leagues so they'd be able to blend in with veteran players.
8. Too many words between antecedent and relative pronouns:
The recruits seemed to blend in with the team's master strategies and make friends on the team who played during the summer months.
The recruits who played during the summer months seemed to blend in with the team's master strategies and make friends on the team.
9. Adjective clauses should clearly point to the antecedent:
The new coach seemed to know nothing about his team's recent history, which reporters seem to pick up on quickly.
Reporters quickly picked up on the fact that the new coach knew nothing about his team's recent history.
10. “It” must have a clear point of reference:
Coach Espinoza made several recruiting trips around the country, but it came to no avail.
Coach Espinoza made several recruiting trips around the country, but her efforts were not successful.