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Zero article

From Teflpedia

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.[1]

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:[2]

Category Example(s) Ill-formed example(s) Notes
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:

References[edit | edit source]