October 10

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EP23: Articles (1)

 

Hello hello, fellow learners of English, how are you doing out there? This is Kristian here, nice to be with you again, and welcome to the Learners of English Podcast, episode number 23.

You are listening to this podcast because you want to improve your English, so you can fulfil your dreams in life, whatever they may be. As always, it’s an honor for me to help you to get from where you are right now to where you want to be.

Before we start, let me just remind you that you can find the transcript of this episode on my website learnersofenglish.com.

OK, let’s get down to business.

Today we are going to talk about articles. I strongly suspect that this will be the first in quite a long series of episodes about how to use articles properly in English.

So if you’ve ever struggled to use articles (and I mean a/an/the or no article at all), then this is for you. If you speak, perhaps, a Slavic language, or any other language that doesn’t have articles, then I’m sure you’ve often scratched your head over this one.

As someone who has been teaching many learners in Prague for two years, I know this topic is not the most exciting one. And that’s an understatement. But it is a very important one and I’m going to show you why with the help of a short conversation.

In a few moments I will role-play a conversation between Kate and Adam. They are a couple cooking dinner together. Kate is English, Adam is a learner of English and getting his articles wrong.

Let’s focus on the articles here. What does it sound like to you? Again, the articles are the words a, an and the. See if you can correct any errors that you notice. There are 6 missing articles. Can you find them?

All right, here we go:

Adam: Where do you want me to put _ fried chicken?

Kate: You can put it over there, on the table.

Adam: OK but if I put it on _ table and _ dog comes in, and let’s say he eats _ fried chicken, you might get angry and shout at _ top of your voice: “ADAM why have you put _ chicken on table?”

You see? I don’t want you to get angry with me.

Kate: Alright, well, just put it in the bathroom on the washing machine and close the door.

Adam: That’s an excellent idea!

Did you spot the errors? Although articles are small words, they are really important, and for me the misuse of articles is something that will stop you from ever getting to a truly advanced level of English.

I mean, when I hear mistakes with articles (which usually means that they’re just not used at all) I feel it makes a bad impression, even though it’s a relatively small error, at that moment the person’s level of English drops quite a lot and it starts to sound like broken English.

The example I created was relatively easy. I only used the in the conversation. But there are three different articles:

  • A chicken (an egg)
  • The chicken(s)
  • Chickens (no article)

We use articles to show specifically which things we are referring to when we speak, which again, is not super exciting, but nevertheless they are important.

Articles belong to a bigger classification of words that we call determiners. Determiners are words that go before nouns and they tell us things like specifically which noun we are referring to, how many there are, and who owns them.

Demonstratives: this chicken, that chicken, these chickens, those chickens

Pronouns and possessive determiners: my chicken, your chicken, his chicken, her chicken, its chicken, our chicken, their chicken

Quantifiers: a few chickens, a little time, much time, many chickens, a lot of chickens, most chickens, some chickens, any chickens, enough chickens

Numbers: one chicken, ten chickens, thirty chickens

Distributives: all chickens, both chickens, half time, either chicken, neither chicken, each chicken, every chicken

Difference words: other chicken, another chicken

Pre-determiners: such chickens, what chickens

OK, that was a long list. Enough grammar theory for today. Now it’s time for you to start practicing. You can create a similar short dialogue as the one in this episode. Or you could look again at the list of determiners I included in the transcript.

All right, let me know your thoughts on this episode in the comments or via email. Take care of yourself, and each other and I’ll catch you in the next episode.


About the author 

Kristian

Kristian is a Dutch guy who teaches English online. He relaxes with audiobooks, music and podcasts. Kristian still has a lot to learn, but he's happy to share what he has learnt along the way.

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