Zero Article: Special Uses

Lesson 4. There are lots of unusual "special" uses of zero article. This lesson divides them into 20 categories with specially-created images will help you to remember these vital exceptions, e.g. to go "to school", to "have dinner", etc.

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Zero Article - Revision PDF  PDF: Zero Article 

Lesson transcript

In the next two lessons we're staying with articles and we going to look at the special uses of Zero Article and 'The'.

Now, so far we've seen that normally we use zero article for talking generally and 'The' for talking about something in particular.

In these lessons we're going to look at the special and important exceptions to those rules.

Examples of special uses of Zero Article are 'Times Square', 'Heathrow Airport' and to go 'to hospital' - no article in each example.

And there are 16 categories of example to look at. We will look at those in Lesson 4.

Meanwhile for special uses of 'The' we might look at examples like 'the Ritz', 'the British Museum' and to go to 'the supermarket'.

And there are 10 categories here and we will look at those in lesson 5.

At the end of both lessons there will be practice exercises and PDFs with pictures for you to download.

So lesson 4 - special uses of 'Zero Article', and there are 16 categories for this lesson.

Categories 1 to 4, number 1 and the category is planets.

The example here is 'Earth' - no article. We might say for example 'we live on Earth'.

Other examples are 'Mars', 'Jupiter' and so on.

Number two, continents, and this is 'Africa' - no article. We might say 'I've never been to Africa'.

Other examples are: 'Asia', 'Europe'.

Number 3 the example here is 'Brazil'. Other examples are: 'Italy', 'India', and so on, all with no article.

And finally number 4, towns and cities. This is 'Paris', we could also say 'New York' 'Tokyo' and so on.

So those are categories 1 to 4, planets continents, countries, towns and cities.

Categories 5 to 8, number 5 great lakes,  and this lake is 'Lake Victoria' - no article.

Other examples are 'Lake Michigan', 'Lake Superior' and so on.

Number 6
, famous mountains, and this is 'Everest' or 'Mount Everest' both with no article.

Other examples are: 'Mount Kilimanjaro' in Africa, or 'Mount Lotse' and all the rest.

Number 7, airports and this particular picture could be any airport but I've chosen Heathrow in London without an article as usual.

Other examples are 'JFK International' in New York, 'Linate' in Milan.

Number 8, cathedrals. The example here is 'St Pauls Cathedral'. Other examples would be 'Westminster Cathedral' or 'Westminster Abbey' which is a type of cathedral and all the rest.

So those are categories 5 to 8: great lakes, famous mountains, airports and cathedrals.

Categories 9 to 12 - number 9, castles. This particular castle is 'Windsor Castle' no article.

Other examples could be 'Edinburgh Castle' in Scotland and so on.

Number 10, universities and this is Oxford University. Other examples might be Cambridge or Harvard University and so on.

Number 11, UK landmarks and this is 'Big Ben', no article. Other examples are Nelson's Column, Marble Arch all of these are in London in fact.

Number 12, parks, and example here is 'Central Park' which is in New York.

Other examples of parks are 'Hyde Park', 'Regents Park', both of these are in London again.

So those are categories 9-12: castles, universities, landmarks in the UK and parks.

Categories 13 to 14 are streets and avenues. First of all this is 'Oxford Street' in London. Other examples are: 'Wall Street', 'Madison Avenue', and so on.

And number 14, squares, this is 'Time Square' - no article. Other examples -  Trafalgar Square, and so on.

Category 15 and this is expressions, and there are four groups of categories in here; a) to d).

Let's start with a) everyday activities. And the expression is 'to go to'. This one is 'work' - no article.

Number two is 'bed' - no article. And finally number 3, 'to go to sleep'. So not 'the' work or 'the' bed or 'the' sleep.

Group b) and this is for certain public buildings. And again we would say: 'to go to'. This one is 'school' or 'college' - no article.

Number 2 is 'to go to hospital' - no article although in American English we probably say to go to 'the hospital'.

Number 3 'to go to prison'.

Now remember for all of these examples, we only use Zero Article (so: to go 'to school' to go 'to hospital' to go 'to prison') when the person going is the 'receiver' and not the 'giver'.

What I mean is that a person who goes 'to school' is a student, not a teacher. They are the receiver of the service of schooling of lessons.

Similarly, with hospital if I go 'to hospital' I am the patient not the doctor. A doctor would go to 'a hospital' or 'the hospital' probably.

And number 3 if I go 'to prison' I am a prisoner not a guard.

So that's Zero Article for public buildings.

Group c) now, and this is meals. And we would say 'to eat…' or 'to have…' –  number 1 '…breakfast' – no article.

To eat or to have 'lunch', and eat or have 'dinner'.

Finally, Category d) sports, and examples are: to 'play football' – no article, and to 'play basketball' – again, no article.

And it's the same for all other sports.

So that's category 15, expressions.

The final category, 16, is 'abbreviated language'. Two examples here. The first one is informal SMS or text or email.

Examples are: 'Missed train' – no article –or 'see you at party'. Now, in normal conversation you probably say 'I missed the train' or 'see you at the party'.  

Because we are texting or emailing quickly it's sometimes easier just to miss the article like <here> and <here>.

The second example is for newspaper headlines.

An example would be: 'man found dead'. Now, in normal conversation or writing we would say 'a man has been found dead' but to make it easier and quicker to read we remove the article.

Similarly in this example here (if you can read it) is 'Lehman collapse sends shockwave round the world'.

In normal conversation we would say 'the Lehman collapse has sent a shockwave round the world', but to make it quicker to read we take off the articles.

So that's our last category of special uses of Zero Article and here is the PDF for you to download with all of the examples we've looked at.

Join me in the next lesson where we'll look at the special uses of 'The'. There will also be practice exercises for both lessons.

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Nouns: Countables, Uncountables (1)
Articles (2)
(3) | (Zero Article 4) | The: Special Uses (5)
There is, there are (6)
Quantity: Some, Any (7) | Many, Much, A lot of (8) | A few, a little (9)
Prepositions of time: In, On, At (10)
The Present: Present Simple (11) | Present Continuous (12)
The Past: Past Simple (13) | Past Continuous (14) | Present Perfect (15)
Irregular Verbs (16)
The Future: Future Simple (17) | Future Plans (18)
Phrasal Verbs (19) (20)

     Countable and uncountable nouns 

     Countable and Uncountable
     Learn the two key rules

     "The": Special Uses
      "The": Special Uses
      10 special uses of 'the' here

     Phrasal Verbs - Part 1 

     Phrasal Verbs Part 1
     Each example with a picture

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