So how can we apply this knowledge to use articles more accurately?
Consider these sentences. Both of them are introduction sentences for a student essay about how food has changed.
(1) Food is an essential part of human’s life. It is very important for human to survive in the world.
(2) In the past years, most Chinese people cooked at home and that was cheaper than restaurant. The family meals were common during that time.
Let’s improve (1):
(A) Food is an essential part of (B) human’s life. It is very important for (C) human to survive in (D) the world.
(A) “Food” is uncountable and generic. So “Ø Food” is correct.
(B) But in “Ø human’s life” there is a problem. “Human” is a singular countable noun but there is no article. The reference is generic. So it needs to be corrected to “a human’s life”.
(C) After that, the singular noun “human” is used without an article again, which is a mistake. It should be corrected to “a human” or better still “Ø humans”.
(D) Finally the student writes “the world”. This is definite reference, meaning “you know which world I’m talking about”. This is the correct use of “the”.
Now let’s improve (2):
(A) In the past years, most (B) Chinese people cooked at home and that was cheaper than (C) restaurant. (D) The family meals were common during that time.
(A) “The past years” means “you know which past years I am referring to”. But actually, there is no information about this. The reference should be generic. So it should be corrected to “Ø past years”.
(B) “Ø Chinese people” is generic reference, so the use of Ø is correct.
(C) Next, there is a problem. The student writes “restaurant” which is a singular countable noun, and the reference is generic. This needs to be corrected to “a restaurant” or better still “Ø restaurants”.
(D) Finally, why has the student used definite reference for “The family meals”? I don’t know which family meals are being referred to. So it should be corrected to the generic “Ø Family meals”.
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