Articles a/an and the
The articles can cause some problems.
I am going to discuss some examples in today. I will use elementary school as an the example phrase.
Elementary school was difficult for me. I attended an elementary school in Chicago. It was a very big school with many students. I never really felt comfortable with all of those students around. The school had many very good teachers who I still remember fondly. However, the classes they taught were sometimes very hard for me.
I attended an elementary school in Chicago.
An – there are several elementary schools in Chicago but I am not identifying the specific school.
The elementary school had many good teachers.
The – Here the is used because the elementary school is now definite because it has been referred to before.
Elementary school was difficult for me.
__ - Elementary school here is a generalization and refers to the experience of attending elementary school.
Since school is a countable noun, there are three different possibilities.
No article when the noun is a generalization.
A or An when the noun is not specific in its reference. In other words, the reader and the writer do not share the same idea of the specific item referred to.
The is used when the noun is specific either because it has been mentioned before or the writer is using a noun that the reader already knows about.
This is a good place to start.
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