I wish you could remember that in the previous column I explained the proper use of ‘a/an’ and ‘the’. For those who can’t remember or didn’t read the column, let’s go over again what I wrote. In English there are two articles: ‘a/an’ and ‘the.’ According to the Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary ‘a/ an’ is the indefinite article used in English to refer to a person or thing that is not identified or specified. ‘The’ is used to refer to a person or thing that is identified or specified. We may say “I catch a cold” and “I have the flu” differently. Cold is a mild viral infection with various symptoms that affects nose, throat and eyes, so it is hard to be specified. The flu, meanwhile, can be defined as the bird flu, the swine flu and the seasonal flu. In this column I’d like to give you a chance to have a closer look into the usage of articles more in detail. Articles are determiners that come before nouns and are used to show whether or not the nouns refer to a specific person or thing. Also, they are function words that express a grammatical or structural relationship with other words in a sentence. In distinction from a content word such as noun, adjective and adverb, a function word including determiner has little or no meaningful content. However, as Ammon Shea has reiterated, "the fact that a word does not have a readily identifiable meaning does not mean that it serves no purpose." Even though a function word does not have a definite and specific meaning, a sentence does not work properly and grammatically without it. Therefore, we do not say “I have book” but “I have a/the book.” Besides, there is considerable difference in sentence meaning whether you put articles or not. Let’s take a look at the difference with several examples when we use article or not in a sentence. 40 English Use & Usage 1 In case of using indefinite article or not Do you know the difference between “I have a few friends" and “I have few friends”? ‘A few’ is used as adjective to show more than one but indefinitely small in number; “I have a few friends” means you have a small number of friends. ‘Few’ means not many or only a small number of people or things, but also it has a negative meaning; therefore, “I have few friends” means that you rarely have friends. The same is the case of ‘a little’ and ‘little’ when used to mean small degree or amount. Another example is “I take a note of what my professor emphasizes in the class”; ‘take a note’ means taking a memo or jotting down. However, when you say, “I take note of what he says”, ‘take note’ means paying attention. 2 In case of using definite article or not ‘Out of question’ means ‘sure’ and ‘undoubtedly,’ but ‘out of the question’ means it is useless to talk because it is not worth considering. See the difference between the following sentences: It is out of question that we can travel abroad this year. (It is sure that we can travel abroad this year.) A trip abroad last year was out of the question. (A trip abroad last year was impossible.) ‘In time’ means ‘without being delayed’; ‘in the times’ means ‘in the period’ and ‘in the era’. ‘Behind time’ means ‘late’ and is an antonym of ‘early’; ‘behind the times’ is a synonym of ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘outdated’. Now let’s find out the differences in meaning from the following sentences: Kyungnam Times ● 41 I could submit my assignment in time. (I could submit my assignment without delay.) I was an excellent student in the times. (I was an excellent student then.) I was seldom behind time. (I was seldom late.) We need to study all the time not to be behind the times. (= We need to study all the time not to fall behind.) ‘Take place’ means something happens; ‘take the place’ means ‘substitute’ and ‘replace’. ‘Keep house’ is to do the work needed to manage and take care of a house; ‘keep the house’ is confining oneself at home and a stay-at-home life. For example, let’s look at the following examples: A spring school festival will take place next week. (A spring school festival will be held next week.) Nobody can take the place of student council leader of our school. (Nobody can replace student council leader of our school.) I should keep house during my parents’ absence. (I should manage a household during my parents’ absence.) Many people kept the house during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Many people didn’t step out of the house during the COVID-19 pandemic.) The use of articles may seem trivial, but, as you can see, the difference of meaning is not to be overlooked or ignored. I hope this column will be helpful for you to use articles properly and construct sentences correctly.
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