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    #1

    Article a with illnesses

    Why should we say "a headache", but "toothache" and "stomachache", "I've got flu", but "I've got a cold"? Or it's just a matter of "Why?- Because".

  1. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Article a with illnesses

    Quote Originally Posted by Alimdul View Post
    Why should we say "a headache", but "toothache" and "stomachache", "I've got flu", but "I've got a cold"? Or it's just a matter of "Why?- Because".
    We say "a headache", "a toothache", "a stomach ache", at least in AmE. We say I've got (or I have) "the flu" and I've got (or I have) "a cold".

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Article a with illnesses

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    We say "a headache", "a toothache", "a stomach ache", at least in AmE. We say I've got (or I have) "the flu" and I've got (or I have) "a cold".
    That's what we say in AusE too.

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    #4

    Re: Article a with illnesses

    Thank you for your response. I formed my question on the Longman course for young adults "Excellent 3" Unit 3. What is more, I've found these examples in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English: "She's got the flu.", "I couldn't go because I had flu." (in the same article "flu");"I had terrible toothache last night."
    I'm Slavonic. We don't use any articles in our languages. Having been teaching English for a long time I often feel embarrassed about the articles.

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    #5

    Re: Article a with illnesses

    Quote Originally Posted by Alimdul View Post
    I often feel embarrassed about the articles.
    I don't feel embarrassed about articles. Are you sure that's the word you want?

    Despite what many learners, and some teachers, seem to think, there are fairly structured systems in English. Even the supposedly difficult tense system of English is far more comprehensible than it may appear at first - if it's considered in the right way. However, the way we use articles becomes more complex the more we study it. After more than half a century of studying and/or teaching my own language, I still shudder sometimes when an advanced student asks me to explain a particular article usage.

    BUT (and I have deliberately emphasised that word), very few breakdowns in communication ever occur because a non-native speaker has used a preposition in an unnatural way. I think that some teachers make their students worry too much about articles. If learners master the basic usages presented by he time thee learners complete the lower intermediate stages of many coursebooks, then they are likely to use articles appropriately 90+% of the time. When they do make mistakes, these mistakes will generally be far less serious than other mistakes they are likely to make.

    If native speaker themselves differ in the way they use articles, learners don't need to worry too much.

    ps, I am not consistent in my own speech:

    I have/I've got:

    a headache, a cold, a cough, a fever, a sore throat
    toothache/a toothache (possibly),
    stomach ache/a stomach ache (possibly)
    the flu
    back ache

  4. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Article a with illnesses

    Quote Originally Posted by Alimdul View Post
    Thank you for your response. I formed my question on the Longman course for young adults "Excellent 3" Unit 3. What is more, I've found these examples in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English: "She's got the flu.", "I couldn't go because I had flu." (in the same article "flu");"I had terrible toothache last night."
    I'm Slavonic. We don't use any articles in our languages. Having been teaching English for a long time I often feel embarrassed about the articles.
    The use of articles is very difficult for English learners. Native speakers use articles all the time and they sometimes differ from each other in their uses. Pay attention to 5jj's response.

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    #7

    Re: Article a with illnesses

    You've encouraged me a lot. I think I sometimes find myself bogged down in minor details. It's not always worth doing.

  5. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Article a with illnesses

    Quote Originally Posted by Alimdul View Post
    You've encouraged me a lot. I think I sometimes find myself bogged down in minor details. It's not always worth doing.
    Good for you! That is the proper message.

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    #9

    Re: Article a with illnesses

    I, as a non-native speaker of English, find it difficult all the time, despite the fact that I live in the UK. But there was this instance of a good piece of advice that I found in one of the textbooks I'd come across - it said that if you're speaking of an example of phenomenon, you often use an indefinite article with the noun referring to it, e.g.
    We could see a clear blue sky - a student might ask why not the clear blue sky, since sky is unique and as such should be used with a definite article. Here goes the explanation - in this case, it is an example of the phenomenon called sky, and the sky (the phenomenon, not an example of it) was clear and blue. Use of adjectives often makes a noun go with an indefinite article when we first introduce or put an idea in context. It's just one mere example of such use, and, to be frank, the more I read, and even write my own books, I've noticed that it's become more natural or automatic, without prior reasoning. Obviosuly, there are cases where you don't normally use an indefinite article, even when used with adjectives describing a phenomenon.

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