View Full Version : Help Identifying Articles?

03-24-2006, 10:45 PM
I work at a writing center, helping students with academic papers. Because of my college's demographics, this job also includes helping ESL students, or English as a Second Language.

Many ESL students who come in are Chinese or Indian, and have a tendency to drop articles ("the," "a," "an") from their writing.

Our center does have worksheets for certain repetitive problems, but unfortunately the particular "article" sheet we have available is a flow chart which is confusing and unhelpful.

Most students can identify what article they need to use when a noun lacking one is pointed out to them, but otherwise can't notice the need for one on their own.

Does anyone have any helpful hints or pointers? Any particularly good explanations on how to identify nouns that need articles? I'm not necessarily looking for worksheets, but has anyone seen anything particularly useful?

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

03-24-2006, 11:09 PM
The following website explains it pretty well:


Hope this helps!

03-24-2006, 11:41 PM
Asians also have the tendency to drop consonants and plurals (the "s"). The article can be a big problem because it's confusing. It's not so bad with countable nouns (a boy, a girl, etc.) but with vowels (aN owl, aN oboe) and weird stuff like (aN hour, a unicorn). Also nouns that seem uncountable but they are (concerns, expectations, suspicions, etc.) so is it "I have a suspicion" or "I have suspicion"?

So, while most Asians are smart enough to understand articles, they don't really understand when to use what. Because in Asian languages, for example Chinese, there's no such things as articles. Instead of "there is a boy," in Chinese it's "there is one boy." So part of the trick is to help them translate all the "one" to "a" or "an." Now "the" is very tricky: "there is the boy." Again, in Asian languages, there's usually no such thing as "the." Instead, we have something like "that" (there's that boy).

03-25-2006, 02:05 AM
I have taught ESL. The article system in English can be one of the most difficult things to learn. Message me if you need assistance.

03-28-2006, 02:10 AM
I forgot to pop in here after I read the posts initially. Thanks for all the help, guys! Hopefully I can try to develop some better worksheets/articles based on the info here.

03-28-2006, 03:11 AM
There's a fantastic pair of grammar and usage books for teachers of ESL by Marianne Celce-Murcia. See if the center will get one or more of them. They have practical advice, excercises, explanations--honestly, they're wonderful if you're dealing with ESL.