Do all languages have articles?

Dear readers, you will feel amazed to know that most of the languages of the world do not use articles at all but they use affixes and clitics to mark the grammatical definiteness.

Some languages have only indefinite articles but no definite articles. There are some other languages that have only definite articles but no indefinite articles. Many languages like Chinese, Czech, Estonian, Finnish, Japanese, Korean, Georgian, Indonesian, Russian, Swahili, Tamil, and Ukrainian have no definite and indefinite articles.

List of Homophones | Homophones Exa...
List of Homophones | Homophones Examples

Types of Articles in the Different languages of the World

There are six types of articles that are used in different languages of the world.

  1. Definite Articles
  2. Indefinite Articles
  3. Zero Articles
  4. Proper Articles
  5. Partitive Articles
  6. Negative Articles

Definite Article

A definite article is used before a specific person, place, or thing without giving any more details about it or them. In other words, we can say, it is used before a specific or particular noun/noun phrase. It shows that the identity of the noun is known to the reader. In the English language, we have only one definite article i.e. “The”. It has no case, number, and gender. It can be used with any noun or noun phrase. The case, number, and gender of the noun don’t matter at all when we use the definite article. For example:

Example 1: The women in this house never care for their privacy.
Example 2: Last night, the ship got stuck in the Atlantic Ocean.
Example 3: The boy secured the first rank in the painting competition.
Example 4: The food is placed in the microwave.
Example 5: He is the man who reported to me about the case.

In the above examples, the definite article “The” is used with a singular noun, plural noun, masculine gender, feminine gender, common gender, neuter gender, etc. In English, there is no restriction for using the definite article in respect of the number and the gender of a noun.

If we talk about French and Spanish languages, they have more than one definite article.

In Spanish, there are four definite articles and each article has a different gender. Similarly, in French, there are four definite articles – “la, le, l’ and les.” Article “le” is for masculine nouns and “la” for feminine nouns. Article “l’” is used when the noun begins with a vowel and “Les” is used for plural nouns. French definite articles are used according to gender, number, and the first letter.

Indefinite Articles

An Indefinite article is used before a noun or a noun phrase that is general, imprecise, and unspecific. It shows that the identity of the noun is known to the reader. In the English language, there are two types of indefinite articles i.e. – A and An. In English, indefinite articles are used before the singular nouns of any gender. For example:

Example 1: There was a meeting at the club.
Example 2: Douglas had a terrible experience in his childhood.
Example 3: Let us go for a walk.
Example 4: She looks as stupid as an owl.
Example 5: An apple fell from a tree.

In the Spanish language, we have four indefinite articles – “un, una, unos and unas”. Whereas the French language has three indefinite articles – “Un, une and des.” They are used according to the gender and number of the noun.

Zero Articles

Using no article before a noun or a noun phrase in a sentence is called a zero article. In other words, we will say that the absence of an article before the noun is named a zero article. The absence of an article distinctly shows that the noun/noun phrase is indefinite. For example:

Example 1: Life is full of pains and happiness.
Example 2: Nature gives us peace of mind.
Example 3: Death is inevitable.
Example 4: Water is one of the five elements of life.
Example 5: Lunch is ready for the guests.

In the above examples life, nature, death, water, and lunch are nouns but they are not followed by an article. The absence of an article before the nouns is called zero articles.

Proper articles in English

No, there is no proper article in the English language. In some other languages when the definite article is used with the proper nouns, it is called a proper article. Maori, Portuguese, Greek, Catalan, Spanish, German, French, and some other languages use proper articles with personal names. The use of definite articles with nicknames can also be seen in American English. The most prominent example is the former President of the USA – Donald Trump who was called sometimes in speeches as “The Donald”.

Partitive articles

No, there are no partitive articles in English language. In some other languages like Albanian, French, Italian, Kurdish, Mecidonian, Luxembourgish, a partitive article is a type of indefinite article and is used with a mass noun such as oil, coffee, water, food, liquid, or some other uncountable noun. For example:

French: Veux-tu du café? – means – “Do you want some coffee?”

In the above example, the word “du” is a partitive article that is equivalent in English to the word “some”. But the word “some” in the English language has been classified as a determiner and not an article.

Negative article in English

No, there is no negative article in the English language. The word “No” is used as a negative article in some other languages like Dutch, German, etc. But in the English language the word “No” has been placed in the category of determiners. So “No” is a determiner in English grammar and not an article. For example:

German – Kein Hund – means – No dog
Dutch – geen hond – means – no dog

In the above examples, the words “kein” and “geen” (no) are used as negative articles. A negative article is regarded as neither a definite article nor an indefinite article.

A negative article specifies none of its nouns, and can thus be regarded as neither definite nor indefinite. On the other hand, some people consider such a word to be a simple determiner rather than an article. In the English language, this function is fulfilled by the word “No”, which may appear before a singular or plural noun.

Articles Exercises

Identify the definite and indefinite articles in the following sentences.

Of all the girls in the class, Elizabeth is the wisest.

Show Answer
Answers: the – definite

He is an Indian but he speaks Spanish very well.

Show Answer
Answers: an – indefinite

The stranger told me the way to the hospital.

Show Answer
Answers: the – definite

I read the New York Times.

Show Answer
Answers: the – definite

Johnson is an heir to this estate.

Show Answer
Answers: an – indefinite

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