✨Creating an account only takes 20 seconds, and doesn’t require any personal info.
If you’ve got one already, please log in.🤝
A zero article /zɪərəʊ ɑ:tɪkəl/ is a grammatical article that is envisioned to be present in English when a noun is not preceded by a determiner (including indefinite articles a/an or the definite article the); i.e. the determiner syntactic slot is empty.
Meaning[edit | edit source]
In English, we use this the zero article when speaking about things in general. For example, in [∅] Dogs eat [∅] meat, dogs refers to “dogs in general” and meat refers to “meat in general”.
More specific examples of semantic categories which typically use the zero article include:
|Meals||I eat [∅] breakfast.||!I eat a/the breakfast.|
|Sports||I play [∅] football.||!I play the football.|
|Academic fields and school subjects||I study [∅] geography.||!I study the geography.|
|Places, in the sense of their purpose||I’m going to [∅] school.||!I'm going to the school.||Also includes bed, prison, university, work, and in BrE, hospital.|
|Transport||I travel by [∅] bike.||!I travel by a/the bike.|
|Time points||I eat lunch at [∅] noon.||!I eat lunch at the noon.||Also bedtime, dinner time, lunchtime, midnight, sunrise, sunset.|
|Seasons||I wear a hat in [∅] winter.||I wear a hat in the winter.||Both acceptable.|
Form[edit | edit source]
Grammatically, the articles marks both lack of possession and lack of definiteness. The zero article is used with both singular or plural nouns. Singular nouns are marked as mass nouns, e.g: [∅] Fruit is good for you. It can also be used with plural nouns, e.g: [∅] Oranges are [∅] fruits., including uncountable plurals, e.g. [∅] Clothes are optional.
English pronouns do not take determiners; therefore, there is no zero article before pronouns; e.g. Somebody is happy, not *[∅] Somebody is happy. — including temporal deictic pronouns; Yesterday was rainy not *[∅] Yesterday was rainy.
In some analyses there may be a zero article before most (but not all) proper nouns, e.g. [∅] Caroline lives in [∅] France (not e.g. *The Caroline lives in the France). Other analyses omit a zero article, and group most proper nouns in a group closer to pronouns, which cannot take determiners.
The zero article may be displaced by other articles, including:
- Demonstrative determiners and possessive determiners.
- Genitive case nouns, e.g. Dave’s cat.
- Quantifiers, e.g. some people.