Zero Article

Some nouns and noun phrases are used with no articles preceding them. In this article, we will learn about them.

Intermediate
What Is Zero Article in English?

What Does Zero Article Mean in English?

'Zero article' refers to a situation when we do not use an article (a, an, the) before a noun or noun phrase.

Why Do We Use Zero Articles?

Sometimes using an article for nouns or noun phrases is not necessary. In this case, we do not use any articles before them and we call it 'zero articles. ' check out the examples:

I want to call Maria.

Let's have dinner outside.

I love football.

What Nouns or Noun Phrases Do Not Need Articles?

Usually to make a general statement (generalization) or categorical statement we use zero articles. But this is not always the case. Let us discuss it in more detail:

Mass Nouns

Mass nouns (also called non-count or uncountable nouns) do not usually need an article before them. In other words, the indefinite articles 'a, an' are never used with uncountable nouns, however, you can sometimes use the article 'the' before uncountable nouns, when you want to be specific. Here are the most important groups of mass nouns that are not preceded by articles:

  • languages

You can not use the articles 'a, an' before different languages, but if there is the term language after it you can use the article 'the.' Check out the examples:

Such as → Russian, English, German, Italian, etc.

They speak Russian. (Not 'They speak the/a/an Russian.')

I think English is a nice language. (Not 'I think the/a/an English is a nice language.')

I like to learn the Polish language.

  • meals

You can not use the articles 'a, an' before meals. But if there is an adjective, phrase, or even a clause that describes a meal (whether before or after a meal), you can use the article 'the.' Check out the examples:

Such as → dinner, breakfast, lunch, etc.

Let's have lunch together. (Not 'Let's have the/a/an lunch together.')

Breakfast is served at the hotel. (Not 'The/a/anbreakfast is served at the hotel.')

The dinner that was served at the party, was wonderful.

In this example, the 'that-clause' is describing the term 'dinner'; as a result, you can use the article 'the' before 'dinner.'

  • academic subjects

Such as → physics, math, history, etc.

History is my favorite subject at school. (Not 'The,a,an history is my favorite subject at school.')

Physics seems hard to me. (Not 'The,a,an physics seems hard to me.')

  • games and sport

Such as → football, basketball, rugby, tennis, etc.

She plays football very well. (Not 'She plays the,a,an football very well.')

Hanna used to play tennis. (Not 'Hanna used to play the,a,an tennis.')

Proper Nouns

proper names do not take articles

Proper nouns are definite on their own, so there is no need to use an article to define them. Here are the most common proper nouns that are used without articles:

  • names

Such as → Hanna, Fluffy, Harry, Oxford street, etc.

Sam is standing over there. (Not 'The, a, an Sam is standing over there.')

My mother calls my cat Fluffy. (Not 'My mother calls my cat the, a, an fluffy.')

  • places

Such as → Pisa, Taj Mahal, Artemis temple, etc.

We visited Taj Mahal last summer. (Not 'We visited the, a, an Taj mahal last summer.')

Temple of Artemis is my favorite place to go when I am stressed. (Not 'Temple of the, a, an Artemis is my favorite place to go when I am stressed.')

  • days, months

Such as → Monday, November, January, etc.

We have English class on Sunday. (Not 'We have English class on the, a, an Sunday.')

I was born in June. (Not 'I was born in the, a, an June.')

Newspaper Headlines

'Newspaper headlines' do not need an article to become definite. Do not use articles in newspaper headlines. For example:

Headless Body in Topless Bar

Men Walk on Moon

Notice and User Guides

User guides (also known as user manuals) help you figure out how to use a particular device or service. They may include some warnings as well, which are called notices.
Whenever you are dealing with notices or user guides, there is no need to use articles.

Insert battery. (Not 'Insert the, a, an battery.')

Put container in 30°C. (Not 'Put the, a, an container in 30°C.')

Means of Transport

When you want to talk about the type of transportation you use, there is no need to use articles after the preposition 'by.' Check out the examples for more clarification:

We went to the festival by car. (Not 'We went to the festival by the, a, an car.')

Hanna walked on foot to get to the river. (Not 'Hanna walked on the, a, an foot to get to the river.')

*Let us take a bus. ( Not 'Let us take bus.')

In this example, we did not use the preposition 'by,' So we did use an article.

Abstract Nouns

Some abstract nouns can be used preceded by articles and some cannot. Compare examples below:

Happiness is not by chance but by choice.

In this example, we cannot say 'the happiness.'

Listen to the music, please!

Look at the fabulous art!

Common Time and Place Expressions

Some time and place expressions are fixed and we cannot change them by using articles between them. The following examples are always used with zero articles:

The man was in jail for many years.

I cannot talk on the phone at midnight. It is a rule in our house.

Tip!

When we are referring to a place in an institutional sense we do __not_ use articles. However, American English is different from British English, and sometimes in the American style, we are allowed to use articles. Check these examples out:

I was in the hospital.

The sentence is written in American English style.

I was in hospital.

The sentence is written in British English style.

They studied at college.

Mat was at school.

Review

Sometimes using an article is not necessary. So we do not use any articles which in this case, we are using zero articles. Here are the occasions which require zero articles.

  • mass nouns
  • proper nouns
  • newspaper headlines
  • notice and user guides
  • means of transport
  • abstract nouns
  • common time and place expressions

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