To the notional categories of the English language belong the noun, the adjective, the numeral, the pronoun, the verb, the adverb. 

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To the notional categories of the English language belong the noun, the adjective, the numeral, the pronoun, the verb, the adverb.

1). There are several approaches to the classification of parts of speech.

The first approach is called semantic approach. This classification is based on the meaning, the universal forms of human thought which are reflected in 3 main categorical meanings:

Substance (вещественность) substantive

Process verb, gerund

Properties (свойства, качества) adverb, adjective

There some cases when it is difficult to define the meaning:

Action (действие, движение).

Whiteness (белизна).

2). The second approach is called formal. Formal (form): provides for the exposition of the specific inflexional & derivational (word-building) features of all the lexemic subsets of a part of speech. The form is considered to be a criterion of the classification:

- declinable (nouns, adjectives, verbs).

- indeclinable (adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections). There are cases when words can be declinable and indeclinable simultaneously (have to – must). With a slight variation this classification appeared in most traditional grammar books. The Russian linguistics approach is more consistent.





The article is a function word, which means it has no lexical meaning and is devoid of denotative function. Semantically the article can be viewed as a significator, i.e. a linguistic unit representing some conceptual content without naming it. If analyzed in its relation to the conceptual reality, the article proves to be an operator, i.e. a marker of some cognitive operation, like identification, classification, and the like.

It is not a secret that articles often turn into stumbling blocks for students of English, especially for those whose first language is synthetic. Different language types represent different mentalities. Therefore, one of the ways to learn to use articles correctly is developing the necessary communicative skills through countless repetition, which can only be achieved in a corresponding language environment. Another way is trying to develop a system of rules governing the use of articles in the language by understanding the basic principles of their functioning. This is what we are going to do, though of course, both methods complement one another. A language student needs both theory and practice.

As you know, there are two articles in English: the definite article “the” and the indefinite one “a”. It has become a tradition to also single out the so-called “zero” article, which is found in the contexts where neither the definite nor the indefinite article is used. It is better to speak of the zero article rather than of the absence of the article for the same reason that we ascribe the zero marker to the “unmarked” member of the opposition. We speak of zero units in situations where the grammatical meaning needs to be made explicit.

The answer to the question “what do we need articles for?” can’t be too simple. We might have to enumerate quite a few functions articles can be used in. Some of them are common for all the three articles, others are only characteristic of individual function words. This is what we are going to speak of.


1. The Use of Articles as Determiners


The invariant function of all the articles (i.e. the function all of them are used in) is that of determination. Any human language has a system of devices used to determine words as parts of speech. In analytical languages the article is the basic noun determiner.

2. The Use of Articles as the Theme-and-Rheme Markers


The second function the articles can be used in is that of the theme-and rheme markers. As you know, the theme is the information already known, and the rheme is the semantic focus of the utterance, the new idea that is being introduced. An utterance where there is only the rheme can’t be understood. For example, if I entered the room and said something like that to you, “What about a wedding dress for Jane?” you would not understand anything, for there are three rhematic pieces of information in this utterance:

Jane (you don’t know who she is).

Jane’s forthcoming marriage.

You have to take care of Jane’s wedding dress.

Utterances that only contain the theme sound ridiculous. Can you imagine me saying something like that, «Let me share something important with you. This is a table.» You would probably think, something is wrong with me.

Traditionally the grammatical subject coincides with the theme, and the grammatical predicate is the rheme of the utterance. Still there are situations where there are disagreements between grammatical and communicative subjects and predicates.

In languages like Ukrainian or Russian the final position of the word in the sentence is rhematic, and the initial position is thematic. In English the same function is performed by the indefinite and the definite articles correspondingly. It is important to remember this principle when you translate something into English, for example:

3.The Use of Articles as Generalizers


The object denoted by the word is called the “referent ”. Referents can be concrete, if something is said about a concrete object or phenomenon, and general, if what we say is true for the whole class of objects.

e.g. I have a dog at home (a concrete dog).

The dog is man’s friend (any dog).

In the second sentence the definite article is used as a generalizer. The generalizing function can be performed by both the definite, the indefinite and the zero article. The zero article is used in the plural or with uncountable nouns, for example:

Conscience and cowardice are really the same things.

Iron is metal.

When concrete nouns are used in generic sense, they are usually preceded by the definite article. The indefinite article may be used when two classes of objects are compared, for example:

A dog is stronger than a cat.

If asked for an explanation, I would say that the general conclusion about the strength of cats and dogs is first made on the level of individuals, i.e. to determine who is stronger we would probably have to get a dog and a cat to fight. Then we would pick up another dog and another cat, until some general conclusion could be drawn. This is the reason the indefinite article appears in this sentence.

It is also important to remember that different parts of the utterance have to agree with one another semantically. So the articles are mostly used in their generalizing function in utterances characterized by generic reference, for example:

The noun is a part of speech which denotes substance.

The tragedy of life is indifference.

The Use of Articles as Concretizers


The generalizing function of articles is opposed to that of concretization. The latter is realized through some specific functions which are different for definite, indefinite and zero articles.



The indefinite article can be used in four functions:

The classifying function

The indefinitizing function

The introductory function

The quantifying function

Each of them is realized under specific contextual conditions.

The classifying function of the indefinite article is realized in

the so-called classifying utterances. Their invariant sentence pattern is: N + Vbe + N1. Those are:

a) structures with the verb “to be”, for example:

This is a computer.

b)exclamatory sentences beginning with “what” or such.

e.g. What a long story! He is such a nuisance!

c) sentences including an adverbial modifier of manner or comparison, for example:

e.g. You look like a rose! She works as a teacher.

2. The indefinitizing function is realized when the referent of the

noun is not a real thing, but it exists in the speaker’s imagination only. Those are sentences containing modal verbs or verbs with modal meaning, forms of the Subjunctive Mood, Future Tense forms, negative and interrogative sentences.

e.g. I wish I had a home like you do.

Have you ever seen a living tiger?

The introductory function

Before sharing some information about the object, we need to introduce it to the hearer. Fairy tales can be used as ideal illustrations of the use of the indefinite article in its introductory function.

e.g. Once upon a time there lived an old man. He had a wife and a daughter. He lived in a small house.

The quantifying function

The indefinite article developed from the numeral “one”. The meaning of “oneness” is still preserved when the article is used with nouns denoting measure, like “a minute”, “a year” or “a pound”.



The definite article may be used in the following functions:

The identifying function

When we speak, we may want to point out to something that both us and the hearer perceive with our organs of feeling. There are five different ways of getting the information about something existing in the objective reality. We can see it (Do you like the picture?), hear it (I believe, the music is too loud), feel it (The pillow is so soft!), smell it (What is the name of the perfume?) or taste it (The soup tastes bitter).

The definitizing function

The object or thing denoted by the noun is presented as a part of some complex. In modern science the term “frame ” is often used. The frame is a structurally organized system of images. For example, the frame “classroom” includes a window, a blackboard and a door. So if both the speaker and the hearer know what classroom they are speaking of, the constituents of the classroom don’t need any special concretization, and the indefinite article will be used.

e.g. I want to talk to the rector (even if you have never met the man).


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