Grammar in EAP

Articles

Introduction

Articles can be difficult to correct. There are some rules you can learn, but it is very useful to remember typical phrases that occur in your subject. The most common article in academic writing is "the".

Read the following text and observe the articles:

The economy is a bit like the weather - there's a lot of it about. In going about the business of simply living, the average human being cannot afford to ignore the existence of either, for both exert a profound and continuous impact on his behaviour. Surely mankind should count itself most fortunate in that throughout its perennial struggle to come to terms with the vicissitudes of both economy and weather, it has been able to call upon the expertise of two bands of gallant professionals, the economists and the meteorologists, who have elected to devote their lives selflessly to the arduous task of finding out exactly what makes the economy and the weather tick. But what do these self-appointed secular saints discover when they eagerly render their advice to the Common Man on such crucial matters concerning human well-being? Instead of the profusion of gratitude which they might reasonably expect, they find themselves relegated, in the public imagination, to a position normally reserved for the purveyors of patent medicine or the alchemists of medieval times. True, they receive a certain amount of begrudged awe, doubtless because of their ability to come up with important-sounding phrases such as 'technological input coefficient' and 'occluded frontal systems', but such respect as is conferred by the impressive vocabulary is more than outweighed by suspicion, by incredulity, even by ridicule. Their prognostications are accepted with largish pinches of salt. Jokes are made at their expense. All of this might be expected to give rise to a certain degree of resentment on the part of people who, after all, are only trying to help.

In my experience, most of my students' mistakes can be corrected by using one rule: Countable nouns need either an article, if they're singular, or an "s", if they are plural.

Exercise 1

Identify the countable nouns in this text.

Four students - a chemist, a physicist, a mathematician and a humanities graduate - were each given a barometer and told to measure the height of a church tower. The chemist knew all about gases. He measured the air pressures at the top and bottom of the tower with his barometer and from the barely perceptible difference produced an answer of "anywhere between 0 and 60m". The physicist was used to handling expensive equipment casually. He dropped his barometer off the tower and timed its fall, calculating the height as 27-33m. The mathematician compared the length of the tower's shadow with that of the barometer, arriving at a height of 30-30.5m. The humanities graduate sold the barometer, bought the verger a few drinks with the money, and soon found out that the tower was 30.4m tall exactly.

 

Click if you want to check your answer: Answer

Exercise 2

Try this exercise.