Articles belong to a closed class of words call determiners. Determiners provide information such as familiarity, location, quantity, and number about a noun, pronoun (rarely), or noun phrase. Articles specify the grammatical definiteness of a noun or noun phrase. The definite article in English is the. The indefinite articles in English are a and an. Definite articles express definiteness, or that the noun or noun phrase is uniquely specified or known. Indefinite articles express indefiniteness, or that the noun or noun phrase is general or unknown.
In addition to definite and indefinite articles, some grammars also list negative articles and the zero article as articles in the English language. The negative article in English is no, which is also sometimes considered a quantifier. The zero article (Ø) is a lack of an article.
In grammar, a determinative is a word or phrase that expresses additional information such as definiteness, proximity, quantity, and relationships about a noun phrase and that differs from an adjective phrase, which describes attributes. In the English language, articles frequently function as determinatives. Examples of articles as determinatives include the following:
- A little boy brought me an egg. (indefinite article, indefinite article)
- An apple a day keeps the doctor away. (indefinite article, indefinite article, definite article)
- The roof on the house needs a good cleaning. (definite article, definite article, indefinite article)
- No woman wants a man with no ambition. (negative article, indefinite article, negative article)
- No man can learn every language. (negative article)
- The vet can find no dog named Rex in the record book. (definite article, negative article, definite article)
- Ø Children like to look at the lions at the zoo. (zero article, definite article, definite article)
- Ø Bears eat Ø berries in the woods. (zero article, zero article, definite article)
Articles as Determinatives
Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.