Why Technical English

Some details concerning a (an) and the | February 5, 2009

By Galina Vitkova

The more you know about articles, the better. On that account, I would like to emphasise once more their importance for technical writing as well.

Let´s remind that:

The indefinite article a (an) can be used only with singular countable nouns. A (an) signals that the noun refers to any member of a noun group.

  • The definite article the is used with singular and plural, countable and uncountable nouns, especiallywhen both the speaker and listener know the thing or idea already. The signals thatthe noun is definite, that it refers to a particular member of a noun group. (For details, see Purdue University Online Writing Lab and Students do not care about articles).

Following this rule we must not say or write a software, a hardware, a money (a piece of software is possible if necessary), whereas the software or only software etc. is correct.

Students often use a (an) with plurals, e.g. a robots, a modern technologies, a laser printers. It is nonsense, a (an) suggests one. It means robots or the robots, modern technologies or the modern technologies is correct.

It is possible to use the with numerals when exceptionality of a situation should be underlined or just in case. For example, we say or write sometimes the two disks in this situation, but two disks is usual.

The definite article the(e.g. the transistor, the electromagnetic wave, the digital pen etc.) is frequently used to indicate that a noun refers to the whole class of which member the noun is, e.g.The milestone of the modern age of computers was the development of the transistor.

Finally, be aware of necessity the in case of unique objects:

  • The Earth, the equator, the Moon, the prime meridian.
  • The particular components of something, e.g.:

A robot has the back and the front (i.e. any robot has the only one front and the only one back).

The surface of a sphere (again any sphere has the only one surface).

Hence remember applying articles when writing and speaking!

PS: If you have any questions concerning use of a (an), the, put your comments to this post or send message mailto:victe@volny.cz.



  1. […] Se­e­ mo­re­ h­e­re­: So­­me d­etail­s co­­ncerning a (an) and­ th­e « W­h&#… […]

    Pingback by Some details concerning a (an) and the « Why Technical English — February 5, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

  2. Кстати как раз с артиклями больше всего и путаются! Полезная статейка!

    Comment by драйвера — February 13, 2009 @ 11:13 am

  3. […] Some details concerning a (an) and the   […]

    Pingback by Changing the theme of this blog « Why Technical English — August 26, 2010 @ 9:28 am

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