The definite article with abstract uncountable nouns

دوره: گرامر انگلیسی در شش دقیقه / درس 46

گرامر انگلیسی در شش دقیقه

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The definite article with abstract uncountable nouns

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Join Callum, Catherine and Finn as they talk through this topic. If youve completed Activity 1 and Activity 2 you should now be quite familiar with the topic. See if you can get all the answers in the quiz correct!

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Hello and welcome to 6 Minute Grammar, I’m Callum.

And I’m Catherine, hello.

In this programme we’re talking about the definite article with abstract uncountable nouns.

Yes, we’ll explain what that all means.

And we’ll end up with a quiz to see if we’ve done a good job.

No pressure then!

Indeed. To start with, let’s just remind everyone about the terms we’re using. First, there’s the definite article. What’s that, Catherine?

The .

The what?

Just the .

Just the what?

You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you Callum? The definite article is the word the . Articles are used before nouns.

Today’s topic is using the with abstract uncountable nouns. Tell us about those.

OK. Now, before I get to the abstract part, let’s just remind everybody about uncountable nouns, which you might also hear described as mass nouns. These are nouns that, as the name suggests, you can’t count. They have no plural form. Words like air, water, cheese, money.

Wait a minute.


Did you say money?


Did you say you can’t count money?

That’s right. You can’t count money, at least not grammatically. You can’t count money in the same way as you can count, for example, chairs. Because, when you count chairs, you can just give a number. How many chairs are there? Three, ten, 2,150. But if I ask you Callum how much money you have in your pocket, what would you say?

OK, well, let me see. I’ve got five, ten. I’ve got £15. So I can count money, surely?

Yes, you’ve got 15 pounds . But you haven’t got 15 moneys . So, pounds are countable, money isn’t. We are counting the pounds.

I see, and what are abstract uncountable nouns then?

Well, before we go to abstract, let’s first talk about the concrete ones. Concrete uncountable nouns are things that you can physically experience, that’s things that you can touch, see, hear, smell or taste. But abstract nouns don’t refer to these physical things. Abstract nouns refer to ideas, feelings, emotions, qualities and concepts. So, things like: love , fun , happiness , bravery , patience , enthusiasm and childhood.

But I’m sure I experienced childhood . It seemed pretty real to me.

Well, because we describe something as abstract, it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. You certainly were a child Callum at some time, whenever that was. But the period of time when you were a child. all the experiences that you had when you were growing up. aren’t physical things. Together they make an idea or a concept that we call childhood .

6 Minute Grammar from BBC Learning English

Today we’re looking at using the definite article with abstract uncountable nouns. We’ve defined our terms, so now let’s look at how these two go together. Catherine, can we use the with abstract uncountable nouns?

Well, Callum, it depends on the context. If we are talking about something in general, we don’t use the definite article. Here’s Finn, with an example.

It can be difficult to find happiness.

The abstract noun there is happiness . Here we’re talking about happiness in general, we don’t use the definite article. Now compare that use of happiness , with this one.

I can’t express the happiness that I felt when my son was born.

Now in this case, are we talking about happiness in general?

No, we’re talking about a specific time, a particular moment when there was happiness .

Right, so in this case, because it is referring to a particular time we do need to use the definite article . Note that after the noun the happiness there is a phrase that points to the exact time being described. And in this case the phrase is:

That I felt when my son was born.

Exactly. And that phrase is a defining relative clause. When there is a defining relative clause following an abstract uncountable noun, the chances are the noun will have the definite article in front of it.

So we know that the definite article the is used with abstract uncountable nouns when we are talking about a specific example of that noun.

And when we are talking about that noun in general, we don’t use any article.

I think it’s time for a little quiz. Listen to each sentence and decide if the use of the article is correct or not. Finn, number one please.

I’ve got a lot of the ambition.

And that one is. not correct. Ambition is the noun but it shouldn’t have the definite article. Next one please, Finn.

He had the confidence that is needed to sing in public.

That is correct. The noun is confidence and as the particular example of confidence is defined, we do need the . Last question, please.

Love is all you need.

Of course, that one is correct. Love is the noun and it refers to the idea of love in general so no definite article. Well done if you got all those right.

That’s all from us today, there’s more about this topic on our website Do join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.


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