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The Articles
The three articles a, an, the are a kind of adjective. The is called the definite article because it usually precedes a specific or previously mentioned noun; a and an are called indefinite articles because they are used to refer to something in a less specific manner (an unspecified count noun). These words are also listed among the noun markers or determiners because they are almost invariably followed by a noun (or something else acting as a noun).

The is used with specific nouns. The is required when the noun it refers to represents something that is one of a kind:
The moon circles the earth.

The is required when the noun it refers to represents something in the abstract:
The United States has encouraged the use of the private automobile as opposed to the use of public transit.

The is required when the noun it refers to represents something named earlier in the text. We use a before singular count-nouns that begin with consonants (a cow, a barn, a sheep); we use an before singular count-nouns that begin with vowels or vowellike sounds (an apple, an urban blight, an open door). Words that begin with an h sound often require an a (as in a horse, a history book, a hotel), but if an h-word begins with an actual vowel sound, use an an (as in an hour, an honor). We would say a useful device and a union matter because the u of those words actually sounds like yoo (as opposed, say, to the u of an ugly incident). The same is true of a European and a Euro (because of that consonantal "Yoo" sound). We would say a once-in-a-lifetime experience or a onetime hero because the words once and one begin with a w sound (as if they were spelled wuntz and won). Merriam-Webster's Dictionary says that we can use an before an h- word that begins with an unstressed syllable. Thus, we might say an hisTORical moment, but we

2 would say a HIStory book. Many writers would call that an affectation and prefer that we say a historical, but apparently, this choice is a matter of personal taste. First and subsequent reference: When we first refer to something in written text, we often use an indefinite article to modify it.
A newspaper has an obligation to seek out and tell the truth.

In a subsequent reference to this newspaper, however, we will use the definite article:
There are situations, however, when the newspaper must determine whether the public's safety is jeopardized by knowing the truth.

Another example: "I'd like a glass of orange juice, please," John said. "I put the glass of juice on the counter already," Sheila replied. Exception: When a modifier appears between the article and the noun, the subsequent article will continue to be indefinite: "I'd like a big glass of orange juice, please," John said. "I put a big glass of juice on the counter already," Sheila replied. Generic reference: We can refer to something in a generic way by using any of the three articles. We can do the same thing by omitting the article altogether.

A beagle makes a great hunting dog and family companion. An Airedale is sometimes a rather skittish animal. The golden retriever is a marvelous pet for children. Irish setters are not the highly intelligent animals they used to be.

The difference between the generic indefinite pronoun and the normal indefinite pronoun is that the latter refers to any of that class ("I want to buy a beagle, and any old beagle will do.") whereas the former (see beagle sentence) refers to all members of that class. Proper nouns: We use the definite article with certain kinds of proper nouns:

Geographical places: the Sound, the Sea of Japan, the Mississippi, the West, the Smokies, the Sahara (but often not when the main part of the

3 proper noun seems to be modified by an earlier attributive noun or adjective: We went swimming at the Ocean Park) Pluralized names (geographic, family, teams): the Netherlands, the Bahamas, the Hamptons, the Johnsons, the New England Patriots Public institutions/facilities/groups: the Wadsworth Atheneum, the Sheraton, the House, the Presbyterian Church Newspapers: the Hartford Courant, the Times Nouns followed by a prepositional phrase beginning with "of": the leader of the gang, the president of our club

Abstract nouns: Abstract nounsthe names of things that are not tangibleare sometimes used with articles, sometimes not:

The storm upset my peace of mind. He was missing just one thing: peace of mind. Injustice was widespread within the judicial system itself. He implored the judge to correct the injustice. Her body was racked with grief. It was a grief he had never felt before.

Zero articles: Several kinds of nouns never use articles. We do not use articles with the names of languages ("He was learning Chinese." [But when the word Chinese refers to the people, the definite article might come into play: "The Chinese are hoping to get the next Olympics."]), the names of sports ("She plays badminton and basketball."), and academic subjects ("She's taking economics and math. Her major is Religious Studies.") When they are generic, non-count nouns and sometimes plural count-nouns are used without articles. "We like wine with our dinner. We adore Baroque music. We use roses for many purposes." But if an "of phrase" comes after the noun, we use an article: "We adore the music of the Baroque." Also, when a generic noun is used without an article and then referred to in a subsequent reference, it will have become specific and will require a definite article: "The Data Center installed computers in the Learning Center this summer. The computers, unfortunately, don't work." Common count nouns are used without articles in certain special situations:

idiomatic expressions

We'll go by train. (as opposed to "We'll take the train.) He must be in school.

using be and go with seasons with institutions with meals In spring, we like to clean the house. He's in church/college/jail/class. Breakfast was delicious. He's preparing dinner by himself. He's dying of pneumonia. Appendicitis nearly killed him. She has cancer
(You will sometimes hear "the measles," "the mumps," but these, too, can go without articles.)

with diseases

with time of day

We traveled mostly by night. We'll be there around midnight.

Articles: A Basic Quiz

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"Cold Comfort" by Michael Castleman from Mother Jones Magazine, March/April 1998; reprinted with permission. Not so long ago, many of us resisted separating garbage. What glass, cans, and paper out of our

hassle. Today, of course, every second-grader knows that

world's resources are limited and that recycling helps preserve them. We act locally, while thinking globally. It's time to bring same consciousness to health

care as we face growing medical crisis: loss of antibiotic effectiveness against common bacterial illnesses. By personally refusing -- or not demanding -antibiotics for viral illnesses they won't cure, we can each take prolonging overall antibiotic effectiveness. step toward

Media reports have likely made you aware of this problem, but they have neglected implications. Your brother catches His doctor treats him with antibiotics, but cold that turns into sinus infection.

bacteria are resistant to all of them. The

infection enters his bloodstream -- a condition known as septicemia -- and few days later, your brother dies. (Septicemia is what killed Muppets creator Jim Henson a

few years ago.) Or instead of

cold, he has

infected cut that won't heal, or any

other common bacterial disease, such as

ear or prostate infection.

Far-fetched? It's not. antibiotics crisis is real. Consider Streptococcus pneumoniae: This common bacterium often causes post-flu pneumonia. (Pneumonia and influenza combined are country's sixth leading cause of death, killing 82,500 Americans in 1996.) Before 1980, less than 1 percent of S. pneumoniae samples showed any resistance Naval Medical Center in San Diego to penicillin. As of last May, researchers at discovered that 22 percent of S. pneumoniae samples were highly resistant to it, with another 15 percent moderately so. And most recent statistics from Sentry Antimicrobial Surveillance Program, which monitors bacterial resistance at 70 medical centers in U.S., Canada, Europe, and South America, show that 44 percent of S. pneumoniae samples in the U.S. are highly resistant, and worldwide, resistance is at all-time high (55 percent). Strains of S. pneumoniae are also now resistant to tetracycline, erythromycin, clindamycin, chloramphenicol, and several other antibiotics. And there's a "plausible risk" that we'll run out of options for treating other types of pneumonia as well, according to infectious disease expert Joshua Lederberg of Rockefeller University in New York. not-too-distant future promises potential failure of medicine's ability to treat

broad range of bacterial infections -- from urinary tract infections to meningitis to tuberculosis. Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a direct outgrowth of the overuse of these drugs. In classic Darwinian fashion, more doctors prescribe antibiotics, more likely it

is for some lucky bacterium blessed with minor genetic variation to survive antibiotic assault-and pass its resistance along to its offspring. The solution is obvious: Doctors should prescribe antibiotics only as last resort.

This strategy works. In early 1990s, Finnish public health authorities responded to rising bacterial resistance to erythromycin by discouraging its use as a first-line treatment for certain infections. From 1991 to 1992, erythromycin consumption per capita dropped 43 percent. By 1996, bacterial resistance to But American doctors are doing antibiotic had been cut almost in half.

spectacularly lousy job of keeping their pens off common cold National third

their prescription pads, most notably by prescribing antibiotics for and other upper respiratory tract infections (URIs). Data from

Ambulatory Medical Care Survey show that bronchitis and URIs account for

of nation's antibiotic prescriptions. Antibiotics treat only bacterial infections and are completely powerless against viral illnesses. Every doctor knows this. recent study by Dr. Ralph Gonzalez, assistant professor of Yet, according to medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, when adults consult physicians for URIs and bronchitis that often follows them, more than half

walk out with prescription for antibiotic. If doctors simply stopped prescribing antibiotics for conditions they know don't respond to them, we'd instantly be well on our way to minimizing antibiotic resistance. Why are doctors so ready to prescribe antibiotics? Physicians are quick to blame public. Patients, they say, demand antibiotics, and doctors are so terrified of malpractice suits they prescribe them to keep their customers happy and their lawyers at bay. There's another side to story: Doctors are trained that there's pill for every ill

(or there should be). All of their medical education conspires to make antibiotic prescription their knee-jerk reaction to any infection, which may or may not have bacterial cause. In addition, prescribing antibiotics is the doctors' path of least resistance. It's easier than taking time to explain that antibiotics are worthless against viral infections, and to

recommend rest, fluids, and vitamin C-or, God forbid, herbal, homeopathic, Chinese, or other complementary treatment. Most medical practices schedule patients at 15-minute intervals. Rather than doing what they know is right for public health, it's much quicker for doctors to whip out the prescription pad and send people on their merry, albeit misinformed way. In better world, medical education would be less drug-oriented and health

care system would encourage doctors to take time to be effective health educators. But even in our imperfect world, some basic health education can help prevent frivolous antibiotic use from boomeranging. Like our doctors, we Americans have been socialized into believing that antibiotics are miracle drugs that can cure just about everything. They aren't, and they don't. We've also been trained to think that colds and their lingering coughs should clear up in few days. They usually don't -- even if you load up on cold formulas that promise to make all symptoms magically vanish. A study by University of Virginia professor of medicine Jack Gwaltney, one of nation's top cold researchers, shows that nearly one-third of adults with colds are still coughing after 10 days. Meanwhile, according to a recent

7 survey by researchers at Louisiana State University Medical Center in New Orleans, after just five days of cold symptoms, 61 percent of adults are ready to head for their doctors -and ask for unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions. My fellow Americans, the next time you feel cold coming on, mark your calendar. Unless you start coughing up lots of green sputum or develop unusual symptoms -- for example, a fever that does not respond to aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) -- think twice about calling your doctor before two weeks have passed. What I do instead is, from moment I feel the infection coming on, I drink lots of zinc

hot fluids, take 500 to 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C four times a day, suck on lozenge every two waking hours, and mix half a teaspoon of tincture of echinacea, immune-boosting herb, into juice or tea three times a day. Reliable studies show that these approaches reduce

severity and duration of colds.

If you develop persistent cough at tail end of your cold, keep taking vitamin C and try an over-the-counter cough suppressant containing dextromethorphan. public, to convince If we hope to preserve antibiotic effectiveness, it's up to us, doctors to prescribe these drugs only when they're necessary. This from-the- bottom-up approach is nothing new. Health consumers have taken the lead in showing doctors value of fitness, nutrition, and alternative therapies. It's time we get serious about antibiotics. "Cold Comfort" is reprinted here with permission from the March/April 1998 issue of Mother Jones magazine;1998, Foundation for National Progress. It is used, also, as an example of a cause-and-effect essay, in the Principles of Composition section of this Guide.