Grammar Rules : Spotting Errors in English Language

grammar rules
Good knowledge of rules of grammar and their correct usage in right perspective, is the only way of attempting the questions relating to the spotting errors.

Important Rules for Correct Use of Articles

Use of `A'/`An'
Article A or An is used before a singular noun. The choice between A or An is determined by the first sound of pronunciation (not by the letter of alphabet even it may be A, E, I, 0, U) of the noun. If it is pronounced with vowel sound, use An otherwise A.

Look at the following sentences
(a) He is an honest man.
(b) He is a European.
(c) He is an MLA.
(d) He is an SDO.

The following words and the use of 'A' or 'An' before them. Students generally make mistake using A or An before these words
  1. An hour.
  2. An hourly meeting.
  3. An hour's daybreak.
  4. An honour.
  5. An honorary post.
  6. An honourable person.
  7. An honest man.
  8. An heir.
  9. An honorarium.
  10. A house.
  11. A historical fair.
  12. A humble person.
  13. A husband.
  14. A heinous crime.
  15. A young man.
  16. A ewe.
  17. A university
  18. A unity.
  19. A union.
  20. A eulogy.
  21. A one rupee note.
  22. A one eyed man.
  23. A uniform.
  24. A useful book.
  25. A useful feature.
  26. A unique decision.
  27. A united front.
  28. A unified. plan.
  29. A year.
  30. A USA ally.
  31. An FO.
  32. A forest officer.
  33. An MP/MLC.
  34. A member of society.
  35. An IAS / IPS / ILO.
  36. An SP / SDO.
  37. An MA / MSc.
  38. An RTS / RTC.
  39. An RC worker.
  40. A UK ship / European.

`The' Definite Article

The definite Article 'The' is used in following cases
  • While speaking of a particular person or thing or one already referred to.
Example She found a purse. The purse contained a golden chain. The golden chain is very precious.
  • When a singular noun is meant to represent a whole category/class
ExampleTh.e dog is a faithful animal. (Or we can say Dogs are faithful animals.)
  • 'The' is used before superlatives.
Example She is the most beautiful girl in our college.
  • 'The' is used with the names of renowned building, gulf, river, ocean, sea etc.
Example The TajMahal, The Persian Gulf, The Char Minar, The Pacific, Th.e Ganga, The Red Sea,
The Yamuna, Th.e Thames
  • 'The' is placed only before the plural names of islands and the mountain ranges, chains of mountains, plural names of countries.
Example The Netherlands, The Phillipines,The Bahamas, The Laccadives islands, The Himalayas,
The Alps
  • The, is not used before the names of countries but if the name of a country contains words like; States, Kingdom, Republic, we use 'the' before them. e.g., The USA, The USSR, The UK, The Republic of Ireland, The Domonican Republic.'
  • 'The' is used before names consisting of adjective + noun (provided the adjective is not East/West etc.)
ExampleThe Arabian Gulf, The New Forest, The High Street
  • 'The' is also used before names consisting of noun + of + noun.
ExampleThe Cape of Good Hope, The Boy of Biscay, The Gulf of Mexico
  • The' is used before the adjectives East/West etc. + noun in certain names.
ExampleThe East/ West End, The East/ West Indies, The North/ South Pole
  • The' is also used before the name of directions.
ExampleThe East, The West, The North, The South.
  • 'The' is used before the name of persons (Family) in plural.
ExampleTheRaymonds, The Ambanis, The Birlas
  • Before the names of important and renowned books.
Example- The Kuran ,The Ramayana , The Mahabharata
  • But we say - Homer's Iliad, Valmiki's Ramayana, Jaidev'sGeetGovind.
  • Before such common nouns that are names of things unique of their kind.
ExampleThe Sun, The Earth, The Sky, World, The Sea, The Environment
Examples -
  • The Sky is dark and the Moon is shining.
  • The Sea seems calm today.
  • In following cases we do not use The' before 'Sea'
  • We go to sea as sailors.
  • He is at sea now-a-days. (on a voyage)
  • We can use 'the' before 'Space' if it means place .
  • He tried to park his car there but the space was too small.
  • But if it means area beyond the Earth's atmosphere, do not use 'the' before it.
Example There are lacs of stars in space.
  • Before terms referring Nationality or Community.
ExampleThe Indian, The French, The American, The English
  • Before a proper noun, only when it is qualified by an adjective.
Example The great Caesar, The immortal Shakespeare, The brave Napoleon.
  • With ordinals like.
  • He was the first man to stand up.
  • The sixth chapter of this book is very interesting.
  • First , second , third are called ordinals.
  • One , Two Three are called cardinals.
  • Before musical instruments and name of inventions.
  • He can play the flute/the tabla I the harmonium well.
  • Who invented the telephone?
  • Before an adjective. when the noun represents class of persons.
  • The young will support the motion.
  • The poor can be trusted.
  • Before a common noun to give it the meaning of an abstract noun.
  • The moralist in Gandhi, revolted against the injustice.
  • The judge in her prevailed upon the wife and she sentenced her husband to prison.
  • The is used before name of Newspaper, Community. Political Party, Historical event, Train, Ship. Aeroplane etc.
  • When two or more nouns refer to one person, put `the' before the first noun only. If both the nouns refer two different persons or things, 'the' is used before both of them.
  • The producer and financer was present there. (Producer and financer is one person)
  • The producer and the financer were present there. (Producer and financer are two different persons)
  • The' is used as an adverb with a comparative.
  • The more she gets the more she demands.
  • The sooner you complete the better it is.
  • The is used before comparative degree being used for selection or comparison.
  • He is the stronger of the two.
  • This is the better of the two novels.
  • When a person being referred by his designation, `the' is used.
  • The Chairman, The Director, The President, The Chancellor.
Example All financial decisions will be taken by the Chairman.
  • When the thing referred is understood.
  • Kindly return the book. (That I gave you)
  • Can you turn off the light? (The light in the room.)
  • 'The' is used in some phrases also.
  • What is the matter?
  • Come to the point.
  • She came to the rescue.
  • Keep to the left.
  • The market is hot with the rumour.
  • He is in the wrong.
  • In phrases; Go to the cinema, Go to the theatre 'the' is used.
  • He went to the cinema yesterday.
  • She is going to the theatre.
  • Before names of Committee Club, Foundation and Trust.
  • The Lions Club, The Rotary Club, The United Nation, The WHO, The Ford Foundation, The Rajiv Gandhi Trust etc.
  • Letters written to two or more unmarried sisters jointly may be addressed The Misses + surname The Misses Smith.

Zero Article Position

Students should learn the following points carefully to avoid the wrong use of articles.
Article is omitted in following cases
  • Before a Proper Noun.
Example Akbar was a great king.
  • When an Article' is used before a proper noun, it becomes a common noun.
  • Mumbai is the Manchester of India.
  • This man is a second Sachin.
  • Before a Common Noun, used in its widest sense.
  • Man is mortal.
  • What kind of bird it is?
  • Before Plural Nouns referring a class in a general sense.
  • Bankers are generally honest.
  • Lawyers are generally intelligent
  • Before Abstract Nouns that express qualities,state, feeling, actions.
  • Honesty is the best policy.
  • Virtue is its own reward.
When abstract nouns, instead of referring qualities, express person or things possessing such qualities or express qualities of definite objects. They are preceded by Article.
  • She possesses the cunningness of a fox. (Here cunningness refers the quality of a definite object that. is `fox)
  • He is a justice of peace. (Justice' stands for judge).
  • Before Material Nouns.
  • Iron is a hard metal.
  • Silver is a semi-precious metal.
When material nouns express things instead of matter of which they are made they are representing 'common noun', so they can be preceded by the Article.
  • He threw a stone on the cow.
  • She threw a stick at the pig.
  • Before names of diseases like Fever, Cholera,Consumption etc.
(But if the names of diseases are plural in their form, the article is generally used as, the measles, the mumps.)
  • Before name of regular meals. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Example He was invited to dinner. (But if the meal becomes particular article is used).
Example The dinner hosted by the queen was superb.
  • Before name of things single in kind; Hell, Heaven, God, Parliament, Paradise (But The Pope', The Devil' are exceptions)
  • He was condemned to hell.
  • The Pope delivered a religious speech.
  • Before names of 'Languages' or 'Colours'.
  • 1 do not know 'Hindi' but know 'English'.
  • I like red and blue colours.
  • Before certain titles and names indicating relationship.
Emperor Ashoka, President Bush, Bahadur.
  • Prince Charles is Queen Elizabeth's son.
  • President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
  • Dr Watson was 'Sherlock Holmes' friend.
  • He is Duke of York.
(But, the Queen of England. the Pope are exceptions)
  • Before a noun following the expression *kind of
  • What kind of girl is she?
  • What kind of boy is he?
  • In certain phrases.To take breath, to set sail, to leave school, to lavseige, to catch fire, at home, in hand. at school, bywater, at. Sunset, on Earth. by land, by train, bycar, on demand, in debt, in jest etc.
  • Before nouns, which are plural in their meanings ,though singular in form i.e.,
  • Cattle, gentry. furniture, scenery, advice,information.
  • Before names of public institutions, (Church,School, University, Prison, Hospital, Court, etc.) ifthey are used, for the purpose they exist ratherthan actual building.
  • He went to Church. (It means he wentto church for saying his prayer)
He went to the church and from there he took a bus. (Meansthat he went to the place where building of the church issituated)
  • When two or more descriptive adjectives qualifythe same noun and adjectives are connected by'and' the article is used before the first adjectiveonly.
  • This is a Hindi and EnglishDictionary. (Here dictionary is one)
  • If two nouns refer to the same person or thing, thearticle is used before the first noun only. but if theyrefer to differentpersons or things, the articlemust he used with each noun.
  • He is a better soldier than statesman.
  • He was a greater soldier than a statesman.
  • Article is omitted after the possessive case.
  • His brother's car, Peter's house.
  • Article is omitted with professions.
  • Engineering is a useful career.
  • Hell probably go into medicine.
  • Article is omitted with years.
  • 1947 was a wonderful year.
  • Do you remember 2000?
  • No article is used before name of games, sports.
  • I am playing cricket.
  • He is fond of playing tennis.
  • No article is used before a noun when it is modified by either a possessive adjective or a demonstrative adjective.
  • Do you like my shirt? (Possessive adjective 'my')
  • I like this pen. (Demonstrative adjective 'this')
  • No article is used before a noun when it is preceded by a distributive adjective.
  • Every student. got a prize. (Distributive adjective 'every')
  • Each student was present in the hall. (Distributive adjective 'each')
  • No article is used before number + noun.
  • The train arrives at platform 7.
  • I want shoes in size 10.
  • Work ( = place of work) is used without definite article 'the'.
  • He is on his way to work.
  • She is at work.
  • They haven't back from work yet.
  • Office (= place of work) needs 'the' He is at/ in the office.
To be in office (without the) means to hold an official (usually political) position.
To be out of office = to be no longer in power.
  • Definite article 'the' is omitted when speaking of the subject's or speaker's own town.
  • We go to town sometimes to meet our mother.
  • We went to town last year and remained there for a week.
  • `Nature' when means environment, do not use article before it.
  • If you interfere with nature you will suffer for it.
  • No article is used before name of 'Season'.
  • In Spring we like to clean the house.
  • She is planning to visit her parents in winter.
  • Definite article `the' is not used before 'Time of day '.
  • We travelled mostly by night.
  • We'll be there around midnight.
  • Names without 'the'
Names of many places, especially names of important buildings and institutions consist of two words. First word is usually the name of a person or a palace , we do not use 'the' before such names usually.
  • Delhi Airport, Victoria Station, London Zoo, Jaisingh Palace, Indira Gandhi Airport, Edinburgh Castle, Jaipur Palace etc.
  • Usually no article is used with the name of Airlines, Companies.British Airways, Sony, IBM, KODAK, Indian Airlines etc.

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