Watch use of definite and indefinite articles

The definite article the and the indefinite articles a and an are challenging to multilingual speakers. Many languages have nothing that directly compares to them.

Use the with nouns whose identity is known or is about to be made known to readers from general knowledge or some clue in the text.

The amoeba's endoplasm spreads peripherally from the ends of the pseudopodium.

Use a or an only with singular count nouns. Use a before a consonant sound and an before a vowel sound. Pay attention to sounds rather than to spelling.

An amoeba does not have cilia, but a protozoan often does.

This rule explains some ofthe differences between British and American English. The softer British pronunciation of an initial h in a word leads to an historical, but American pronunciation often accentuates the h and favors a historical.

To speak of an indefinite quantity rather than just one indefinite thing, use some, less, or much with a noncount noun. With a count noun, specify the number or use such words as few, fewer, many, or several. More is nice; it can be used with both noun types.

Many unicellular animals can live without some sunlight.

Less dietary vitamin C may mean more, not fewer colds.

In several cases, the animals were unable to reuse much nitrogen.

Noncount and plural count nouns can be used without an article to make generalizations.

Truth is beauty.

Phenotypes may not reflect genotypes.

Many languages such as Greek, Spanish, and German use the definite article to make generalizations. However, in English a sentence like The fish are spawning generally refers only to particular identifiable fish, not to all fish in general.

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