Articles and Determiners

The program on Articles and Determiners works at the Word and Sentence levels. At the Word level, students can be tested on randomly selected words, or words they choose from a list. The program asks the student which Article (words like a, an, the, or the so-called "zero article") or Determiner can be used before the word, tells the student if s/he is correct, offers graphics regarding the possible article choice, and allows the student to explore the meaning(s) of words. At the sentence level, students can work on randomly constructed sentences to see which article, the, a(n) or "zero article" is best in a given context of a sentence. The student can be tested on so-called Idiomatic nouns (e.g., lunch in the expression have lunch) and on Place names (e.g., America, which takes the "zero article", versus United States of America, which takes the).

Title Page

As in most of the programs, an opening "title page" appears, with recordings of greetings in some thirty-five languages that the student can Play or simply stop.

Title Page

The student clicks on the icon in the upper right corner to start the program, or can click anywhere on the opening screen to read a little more about the program before beginning.

Main Screen

At the main screen, the menu choices are: Words, Sentences, Graphic, Meaning(s), Help.. and Quit. The items Graphic and Meanings are grayed out and momentarily unavailable until a word or sentence is selected.

The screen that the students sees suggests that the student should work with Words or with Sentences to get an exercise to start with.


From the main screen, the student may begin by clicking on the menu item Words. The next box that appears indicates a choice between A/An or Zero and Determiners as the type of Article or Determiner to work with. In this case, let's assume the student selects A/An or Zero to begin. This in turn will open another box for the student to choose from: whether to work on a Randomly chosen noun or to Select from list. On selecting the latter, a list box appears and the student would click on the down arrow to scroll through the (nearly one thousand) nouns available.

The nearby image shows the screen after the student has clicked on A/An or Zero, Select from List, the list box, and has finally selected the noun business, then clicked on the grey Go ahead button.


As you can see, a box captioned "You Type" appears, asking the student to decide which article, a, an or zero article, can appear before his/her noun, business. The student types his/her answer in the red box and goes on by clicking on the OK button.

After clicking on OK, the student is returned to the main screen and given an explanation regarding his/her answer. Note that the right answers here could be either a (because we can say "a business") or the so-called "zero article", which is typed by using two dashes "--", to indicate that we can say the word "business" without an article in English ("She studied business at Baruch."). Below this information is a suggestion to view either Graphics or Meanings by selecting them from the menu choices.


If the student selects Graphic, s/he is shown a screen captioned "Display," with the word business and one icon of a calculator "nullified" to suggest non-count, and another icon with a calculator, suggesting that the noun business can be counted. Clicking on the menu item Graphic sets various boxes in motion to reinforce the notion that the noun business has both count and non-count meanings and that various articles and determiners can appear before this one noun in its different meanings.


The student clicks on Return to Program to get back to the main screen.


From the main screen, the student can click on the menu choice Meaning(s) ; the result is in the nearby image.


In this case the student sees two definitions of the word business: one a non-count definition, and one a count definition. Clicking on the book gives both definitions, clicking on the "nullified" calculator gives the non-count meaning, while clicking on the calculator gives the count meaning. Clicking on Return to Program returns the student to the main screen once again.

The program also provides definitions for other nouns. In another example, imagine that the noun aardvark has been tested, and the student has clicked on Meaning(s) from the main menu screen. A screen with an icon of a book appears; clicking on it causes the definition of aardvark to appear in the box.


Related to Articles are words like every, each, some, none, etc.; these are called Determiners. Like articles, certain determiners can precede certain nouns, depending on whether the noun is count or non-count. This program provides practice with numerous determiners that may occur before either randomly selected nouns or with nouns chosen from the same list as the one we saw above.

If the student chooses Words from the main screen, and then selects Determiners, a list box opens up with the Determiners that are contained in this program.


The student would then click on one of these determiners, which in this case in the nearby image is every. Then, assuming that the student next chooses to be tested on a Randomly selected noun, (by clicking on the yellow button for that choice), a screen appears in which the student is asked whether the determiner every can appear before the randomly selected noun, in this case oceans. The computer expects the answer "No" here. The student is then told if his/her answer is correct and why.

The usual choices for Graphic and for Meaning(s) are available at the top again, after the student has worked with this noun and this determiner.

After working with either the Graphic or the Meaning(s) screen, the student should click on Return to Program to get back to the main menu page.


The student can click on Sentences from the main screen menu in order to be tested on article choices involving nouns that are definite or indefinite in sentential contexts. The choices here involve The/A(n)/Zero Article with Regular nouns, similar article choice with so-called Idiomatic nouns (like lunch in the expression have lunch), and place names (like America and United States of America, one of which takes the "zero article" while the other takes the).

Sentences; The/A/Zero Article

The nearby image shows the screen in which the student has clicked on the menu item Sentences, then the option button for The/A/Zero article; then on the grey Go ahead button . The computer will respond by generating a random sentence the context of which suggests or demands the use of one of those articles, the, a/an or the "zero article."


The sentence the computer generates --in this case, "Today I saw ___ WORKER on the bus"-- appears in a box. Above this is a box captioned "You Type"; the computer is waiting for the student to respond that the article a is the correct answer to appear in the blank before the noun worker.

The student will be told if s/he is correct and will be given an explanation.


The next image shows the screen in which the student clicked on the main screen choices Sentences followed by Idioms, then a grey button to go on. Again, there is a sentence generated with an idiomatic-type noun, and a "You Type" box in which the right article is expected.

The sentence here "She wants to go with the teacher and work with ___ poor of the city" is one which expects the article the as the correct answer in the blank. The student answer will be evaluated and an explanation provided automatically.

To begin again, the student clicks on the menu choice Sentences, then on the button Idioms, then on the button Go ahead to receive another sentence with another randomly chosen idiomatic expression.

Place Names

The student can select Place Names after clicking on Sentences from the main menu. In this case, a list box appears, and the student is asked to choose a place name that is then inserted into a randomly created sentence.

The student is then tested on which article should go before that place name (in this case, the is used before Himalayas).

To begin again, the student clicks on the menu choice Sentences, then on the option button Place names, then selects a place name from the list, then clicks on the button Go ahead to receive another sentence.

Prof. G. Dalgish, ESL Director, English Department, Baruch College e-mail: