IELTS Writing, Task 1, Task 2

Articles – definite, indefinite and zero

The series of articles in the coming weeks is designed to help candidates move from level 6 to level 7. Being able to move from a level to a level 7 is perhaps the most difficult challenge for IELTS candidates.

As you may know there are four assessment criteria:

  1. grammatical range and accuracy
  2. lexical resources
  3. cohesion
  4. task achievement

The articles will use these criteria as a basis for the content. The first four articles will deal with grammatical range and accuracy, then there will be three each on lexical resources and cohesion, followed by one on task allocation. There will be an overall review in the final one.

 


The first article looks at the definite and indefinite article.

Being able to use articles correctly is essential if you want to achieve a level 7 in grammatical accuracy. This article will first present the main uses and then use exercises to help you remember the key points.

The Definite Article (the)

The definite article is used with countable and uncountable nouns

 

Its main uses are:

  1. To refer to something which has already been mentioned.

Example: Police have arrested a politician on suspicion of fraud. The politician is believed to be a senior member of the ruling party.

 

  1. To refer to a specific example of a general concept.

Example: I decided to throw away the books I used at university.

 

3    To refer to things which are unique.

Example: The earth moves around the sun.

 

These are the main uses but there are other ones you need to know. The following exercise is to help you understand more clearly why ‘the’ is used.

Exercise 1

Match the examples 1-5 with the explanation a-e. (The answer are at the end of the article)

  1. The meat we bought at the local butcher’s is much nicer than the meat from the
  2. No device better represents modern society than the mobile phone.
  3. The standard of living in all three countries has risen.
  4. The biggest increase was in the sale of computers.
  5. I think the rich should pay more tax.

 

  1. Used to refer to a general class rather than a specific example of that class
  2. Used before a superlative
  3. Used before an uncountable noun to refer to a specific example
  4. Used with an adjective when we talk about particular groups of people
  5. Used before an abstract noun to describe a situation, profess or change. This is often followed by ‘of something’

 

The Indefinite article

The indefinite article is used with singular countable nouns. 

Its main uses are:

  1. To refer to a person, object (physical or mental) for the first time, not known to the listener.

Example: Police have arrested a politician on suspicion of fraud. The politician is believed to be a senior member of the ruling party.

 

  1. To refer to something general rather than specific.

Example: I’m thinking of buying a car.

 

  1. To refer to an example of a

Example: The tiger in our local zoo is an Indian tiger.

 

  1. To refer to an individual quantity or more than one quantity of uncountable noun.

Example: She has a wide range of knowledge on this matter.

 

Zero Article

  1. No article is used before the following:

 

proper names 

 

meals:

 

days months, seasons

 

sports and games

 

most geographical names and places

 

Example: My name is Roger Rabbit.

 

Example: We normally have dinner at 7:00

 

Example:

The meeting took place on Monday

 

Example: Baseball is not so popular in Europe

 

Example:

I live in London

 

 

 

 

  1. We can also use no article with plural nouns when referring generally to people or things.

Example:

Computers have dramatically changed our lives.

(There is no difference in meaning between this and ‘The computer has dramatically changed our lives’.)

  1. No article is used with many prepositional phrases

Example:

I learned this poem by heart.

 

 

 

Exercise 2

 

Choose the correct form of the article  a, an, or z (= zero)

 

  1. This gives a/an/z really useful information.
  2. We have made a/an/z progress.
  3. It travels at 100 km a/an/z
  4. A/An/z analysis of the results shows that ….
  5. This is a/an/z evidence of how effective the system is.

 

Exercise 3

 

Choose the correct form of the article  a, an, the or z (= zero)

 

  1. He is acting as a / an / the / z leader until they appoint a / an / the / z  new one.
  2. A / An / The / z TV programs I watch the most are a / an / the / z  crime dramas.
  3. All a / an / the / z employees in my company  have been given a / an / the / z  bonus of £100.
  4. In a / an / the / z 1990’s a / an / the / z  Internet started to be used by a / an / the / z  growing number of people.
  5. A / An / The / z dictionary I use a / an / the / z   most is a / an / the / z  online one called a / an / the / z  ‘Wordsearch’.

 

Exercise 4 

Below is a Task 2 essay on the following question:

“Some people who have been in prison become good citizens later and it is often argued that these are the best people to talk to teenagers about the dangers of committing a crime.
To what extent do you agree or disagree?”

All the articles definite and indefinite articles have been removed. Insert them in the appropriate places.

 

In my opinion, teenagers are more likely to accept advice from someone who can speak from experience. In other words, listening to what life of crime really means   from ex- criminals would be far more likely to persuade young people not to commit  crime than any of  alternative methods. There are case studies to support this view. For example, Italian Government successfully used ex-mafia members in Naples, well-known mafia-dominated city, to educate youngsters about crime risks. As result of this strategy, there was dramatic reduction in teenage criminal activity.

 

alternatives to using reformed criminals to educate teenagers about crime would be much less effective. Some face to face alternatives such as using teachers or police officers are likely to fail to make significant impact because of negative image such authority figures have in the minds of young people, mainly due to influence of  TV and  movies. It is reasonable to ask how can listening to people who are distrusted or disliked discourage teenagers from breaking law? In fact, it might instead unintentionally have opposite effect. Another method is to show educational films, but these are often boring for intended audience, who tend not to be interested in documentary broadcasting style. In my country, for instance, people used to make jokes about educational program that dealt with crime effects on young people; after showing of this program, teenager crime rates actually  rose.

 

In conclusion, I fully support view that people who have turned their lives around after serving prison sentence could be used to deter teenagers from committing crimes.

 

I hope the above has given you a better understanding  on this tricky area of grammar.

 
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Answers to Exercises
Exercise 1 :        1-c; 2-a; 3-e; 4-b&e; 5-d
Exercise 2
  1. This gives (z) really useful information.
  2. We have made (z)
  3. It travels at 100 km an
  4. An analysis of the results shows that ….
  5. This is (z) evidence of how effective the system is.
Exercise 3
  1. He is acting as (z) leader until they appoint a new one.
  2. The TV programs I watch the most are  the / z  crime dramas.
  3. All the  employees in my company have been given  bonus of £100.
  4. In / the 1990’s the   Internet started to be used by  growing number of people.
  5. The dictionary I use  the  most is  an   online one called  (z)  ‘Wordsearch’.

 

Exercise 4
In my opinion, teenagers are more likely to accept advice from someone who can speak from experience. In other words, listening to what a life of crime really means from ex- criminals would be far more likely to persuade young people not to commit crime than any of the alternative methods. There are case studies to support this view. For example, the Italian Government successfully used ex-mafia members in Naples, a well-known mafia-dominated city to educate youngsters about crime risks. As a result of this strategy, there was a dramatic reduction in teenage criminal activity.

 

The alternatives to using reformed criminals to educate teenagers about crime would be much less effective. Some face to face alternatives such as using teachers or police officers are likely to fail to make a significant impact because of the negative image such authority figures have in the minds of young people, mainly due to the influence of TV and movies. It is reasonable to ask how can listening to people who are distrusted or disliked discourage teenagers from breaking the law? In fact, it might instead unintentionally have the opposite effect. Another method is to show educational films, but these are often boring for the intended audience, who tend not to be interested in the documentary broadcasting style. In my country, for instance, people used to make jokes about an educational program that dealt with crime effects on young people; after the showing of this program, teenager crime rates actually rose.

 

In conclusion, I fully support the view that people who have turned their lives around after serving a prison sentence could be used to deter teenagers from committing crimes.