The definite article with abstract uncountable nouns

دوره: گرامر انگلیسی در شش دقیقه / اپیزود 46

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The definite article with abstract uncountable nouns

توضیح مختصر

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

Catherine
And I’m Catherine, hello.

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

Catherine Yes, we’ll explain what that all means.

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

Catherine No pressure then!

Callum
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?

Catherine
The .

Callum
The what?

Catherine
Just the .

Callum Just the what?

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

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

Catherine 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…

Callum Wait a minute…

Catherine
Yes?

Callum
Did you say money?

Catherine Yes.

Callum Did you say you can’t count money?

Catherine 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?

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

Catherine 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.

Callum I see, and what are abstract uncountable nouns then?

Catherine 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.

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

Catherine 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 .

IDENT 6 Minute Grammar from BBC Learning English

Callum 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?

Catherine 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.

Finn It can be difficult to find happiness.

Catherine 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.

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

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

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

Catherine 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:

Callum That I felt when my son was born.

Catherine 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.

Callum 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.

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

Callum 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.

Finn I’ve got a lot of the ambition.

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

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

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

Finn Love is all you need.

Catherine 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.

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

All Bye.

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