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  1. #1
    TheNight's Avatar
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    Default Definite vs zero article

    Dear Teacher!
    I went through the quiz "Definite Article or Zero Article?". i'd like to know what is the difference between two sentences: "Do you often go to church" and "I don't go to the theater very often." The first one inquires if someone goes to church (the fact of going to any church). The second tells us that someone doesnt like to spend or cant spend much time going to (the) theater (probably he/she likes to spend free time another way, so its no matter what theater to go to even if he/she wants to ). So what is the reason for putting "the" in the second sentence and omitting it in the first one?
    Could it possible to refer me to some detailed and comprehensive material concerning usage of definite/indefinite/zero articles? For me, its the most tricky problem))

    Thanks in advance,
    Vladimir Gureyev.

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Definite vs zero article

    In BrE, we go to church (to pray); college, school or university (to study), to work [n] (to work [vb]); to hospital (for treatment).

    However, we go to the cinema (to see a film); to the theatre (to see a play), to the ballet and the opera; to the pub (to drink).

    We listen to the radio, but we watch television.

    We go to work, but we go to the office.
    We go to hospital, but we go to the doctor('s), the chemist('s).

    Articles are indeed a tricky subject.

  3. #3
    Uncle M is offline Member
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    Default Re: Definite vs zero article

    It's to do with abstract nouns as opposed to 'physical' nouns.

    Church is an abstract concept (meaning worship), although 'the church' means a specific building where worship takes place.

    'I watch football' (meaning the game of football in general), but 'I went to the football match'

    I can't explain why we listen to the radio but watch television - it's a mystery!

    (not a teacher)

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Definite vs zero article

    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle M View Post
    It's to do with abstract nouns as opposed to 'physical' nouns.

    Church is an abstract concept (meaning worship
    Not really.

    I go to church (to pray). I go to the pub (to drink) There are two physical places, but we are concerned with the activity rather than the place. We use the definite article for 'pub' (and 'cinema', 'theatre', etc), but not for 'church' ( or 'school', 'hospital', etc).
    Last edited by 5jj; 21-Jul-2011 at 12:24. Reason: typos

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Definite vs zero article

    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle M View Post
    It's to do with abstract nouns as opposed to 'physical' nouns.
    There might be some merit in this opinion. But it doesn't explain why we think of some activities/places as being abstract and some not. And maybe we only think of them as being abstract because we don't use "the" for them - ie. the reverse causation.
    There's no reason we shouldn't "go to pub." As 5jj says, there nothing inherently different about the activities that we use "the" for and the ones we don't - unless you want to argue the point further.

  6. #6
    TheNight's Avatar
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    Default Re: Definite vs zero article

    Many Thanks to all of you!
    To summarise, the usage of articles depends on what you consider abstract or specific. It seems that the way of thinking that something is abstract or not is formed not only by the activities but traditions. Am i right? Anyway, i have to go through this brainstorm for better understanding the subject.
    No doubt, when translating from Eng to the second language, im not concerned with articles. Сonversely, when i try to translate into Eng, most of my time is spend to decide what article to put or even discard it.
    This discussion gave me some comprehension of the problem. Are there any articles, books, etc that cover the articles usage problem with wider view than suggested in traditional materials? Ive already been collecting all the cases to analyze them form different points.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Definite vs zero article

    Quote Originally Posted by TheNight View Post
    Many Thanks to all of you!
    To summarise, the usage of articles depends on what you consider abstract or specific. It seems that the way of thinking that something is abstract or not is formed not only by the activities but traditions. Am i I right?
    No. We simply happen to use the definite article before some institutions, and not before others. Church and school. are no more, or less, abstract than pub or theatre

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