All about Articles

Hi, people! Have you ever wondered what to choose among THE, A, AN before a noun or noun phrase while making an essay in English or composing a short paragraph in your Writing lesson? Choosing the right article is sometimes as tricky as picking a boy/girlfriend. Articles look insubstantial but don’t take them for granted. Your sentence may convey different meaning or turn odd if you’re not very trained at selecting the wrong article.The same thing happened to me in my first year learning English, but guess what, there some tricks you can practice to know how to use them correctly.

So what is article actually? Article is a word that may indicate the specificity of reference of a noun phrase. In a nutshell, there are three types of articles usage in English:

  • indefinite articles
  • definite article
  • zero article

The indefinite articles include a and an. The word ‘indefinite’ itself may be defined as ‘not decided or not known’. Based upon that definition, indefinite article can be described as a type of article that shows or indicates that something or someone is not known yet. For example,    I say “A blogger is someone who writes and runs a site”. The noun phrase ‘a blogger’ here means ‘any blogger who lives on earth, who comes from any country in the world, whose name we don’t know exactly’. Therefore by using indefinite article, speakers do not really know which particular thing or person is being discussed because the scope is general (too wide). That’s why a/an is always used to make a definition or generalization, e.g. “A pig is a four-legged, nasty, disgusting animal“. You can’t say “The pig is ….” to make a definition about pigs in general.

As we already know, article A precedes a noun/ noun phrase whose first sound is vowel and vice versa. I stress more: SOUND not LETTER. And watch out, as you must notice some exceptional cases here. For instance, ‘an honest attorney’ or ‘an herbal man’. The letter is H (consonant, thus supposedly uses article A not AN) but people pronounce ‘ho’ as a vowel /o/. We pronounce ‘honest’ /onest/ not /honest/. Another example is ‘a unit’ because it’s pronounced /yunit/ not /unit/. That’s what I mean by ‘SOUND not LETTER’. So we must pay attention to the pronunciation (instead of the spelling) to decide which indefinite article suits a noun phrase best.

One more essential thing about indefinite articles is use it only for a SINGULAR and COUNTABLE noun phrase. Some examples are ‘a tin of biscuits’, ‘an enchanting lass’. Always bear in mind that we can never say ‘I drink a water’ because you cannot count water. But you can say ‘I drink a gallon of water’. In daily conversations, however, people usually say ‘a coffee’ or ‘three cappuccinos’. It might sound wrong but I tell you that in daily context people love shorter expressions. Instead of saying ‘a cup of coffee’ or ‘three cups of cappuccino’ (which is far too long), they tend to say ‘a coffee’ or ‘three cappuccinos’ (although coffee and cappuccino is liquid and thus you can’t count them). 

The definite article is only one, i.e. the.  Unlike indefinite articles, it can go along with either plural or singular noun/ noun phrase. As what the name explains by itself, ‘definite’ means ‘decided/ known’. In other words, by using definite article, speakers are assumed to have understood which object they’re talking about. Let me give you an example, suppose we’re talking about ‘the Indonesian President‘, it means you (reader) and I have mutually known that we’re discussing about SBY, not Soekarno, Soeharto, Habibie, Megawati, or Gus Dur (although we know the five others used to be our president). It’s totally different when we’re speaking about ‘an Indonesian president’. We don’t  know which is our subject of conversation simply because there are many presidents that this republic has had so far. ‘An Indonesian president‘ could refer to any of our five former presidents or our current president.

< span style="font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:small;">In writing a composition or a narrative, usually we introduce a noun/noun phrase using indefinite article. After the introduction, we are supposed to use definite article. Take a look at this:

“That morning it was suddenly raining. I had no umbrella with me as minutes earlier the sun was shining brightly. I had to stay at that filthy bus stop until a gorgeous girl came along and lent me an umbrella. She looked like a heavenly nymph coming down from the  seventh heaven to rescue me from the raging rain. The umbrella had some tiny holes on it, yet it was fine so long as such a hottie lent it to me.”

Zero article means we must not use any of these articles (‘zero’ means ‘absent, not exist, omitted’). These are some exceptions where articles are not needed at all.

  • An institution (not a building) after a preposition:  bed, church, class, college, court, home, hospital, market, prison, school, sea, town, university, work. By saying ‘Sandy goes to school‘, we mean Sandy is a student attending a certain school. ‘Sandy is going to the school’  means Sandy is going to a given school building and it doesn’t necessarily mean she is a student or teacher there,nonetheless. Sandy is going to the school perhaps because she has a 7year-old child who is waiting for her there or she is a businesswoman who is about to see the principal. There are a lot more speculations no need to elaborate here.
  • Years: never say ‘the 1970’ because without it the context (which year) is already clear.

Two points above are some of cases where articles are not needed. This list contains the other cases.

people Joe, Mrs Smith
seasons & months Winter, February
festivals Easter
continents Africa, Asia, America, Europe
days Monday, Tuesday
parts of day/night midnight, midday, noon, night
magazines Cosmopolitan, Time
countries America, Britain, Arabia
cities & towns London, New York, Tokyo, Sydney, Cairo
streets Acacia Avenue, Pall Mall, Sunset Boulevard
buildings Buckingham Palace, number 10
airports Heathrow, Gatwick
mountains Everest, K2, Mont Blanc
games football, tennis, bar billiards

(extracted from ICALwiki)

"To Be" or "To Being", That's the Question

You might have ever heard of one of Shakespeare’s most frequently mentioned quotations; “to be or not to be, that’s the question”. Now I want you to answer a question ” to be or to being, that’s the question”. Call me grammar freak, I don’t really mind but after my several posts related to grammar now I’m about to present the same theme (again). Thus if you think this post is really intriguing to read, do go on. But if you don’t, close the window of your browser and do something else because it’s going to be really boring for you. Haha…

Ok, let me tell you that we generally tend to add an infinitive ( or verb 1, some call it) after ‘to’ as we were taught by our English teachers a long time ago to do so. But don’t you know that NOT all ‘to’ must take an infinitive? 

For those who are still grasping what the point of the discussion is, allow me to restate that we here are about to scrutinize the difference(s) between TO + INFINITIVE and TO (preposition).

So this is how they are not alike. Like what is implied by the name, TO + INFINITIVE  always takes an infinitive, such as the examples below:

  • want to + INF : Watching the sinful and corrupt public officials stealing the state’s money, I really want to hang them all.
  • would like to + INF : All of us would like to do anything to attend Nia Ramadhani’s wedding party but sadly our names aren’t in the invite.
  • would love to + INF : After graduation, Taylor would love to pursue her acting career in New York in spite of her mom’s disagreement.
  • care to + INF (preference) : “Do you care to dance with me?”, begged the clumsy Charlie. “ wish”, Amber sullenly replied.
  • in order to/ to + INF (purpose) : Hazel just came home (in order) to tell us devastating news that she lost her father hours ago.

However, like I said prior, there are some TO-s that don’t belong to this class. This type of TO is classified into preposition. Yes, a preposition just like ABOUT, FOR, ON, IN, AT, and so on. The examples  given below shall give you some enlightenment about what and how TO as a preposition functions.

  • be used to/ get used to : Randy has lived here for years so he is (gets) used to the do’s and don’ts set up by the landlord.
  • be accustomed to/ get accustomed to : Now that Cecily has become an outstanding celebrity, she must be (get) accustomed to the loss of privacy (or ‘to losing her privacy’).
  • to + adverb of place or time/ noun (phrase) : “Sweetie, don’t go to school! Your migraine might relapse anytime. Stay at home”, Isabel’s mother  squealed.
BE (GET) USED TO and BE (GET) ACCUSTOMED TO carry the same meaning ; i.e. “be in the habit of/ be adapted to” (adjective). The last example of TO as a preposition shows us that TO can be followed by an expression of place (school) or one of time (to 2 o’clock). In conclusion, TO as a preposition are followed by A NOUN, NOUN PHRASE (e.g. the loss of privacy), AN EXPRESSION OF PLACE OR TIME (school, Sunday) or GERUND (losing privacy). Hope the explanation brings you closer to a better understanding on English. See you around, guys!

Time: Days and Months

It’s been a while since the last time I wrote a post here. And now I feel like missing my Korean learning as much as I miss Kim Tae Hee. Isn’t she gorgeous? Just want to display her image to boost my blogging spirit on this blog.
Sorry, for abandoning you, my blog. But let bygone be bygone as now it’s time to start the new beginning. I promise to post articles more regularly and never leave you unposted or unvisited.
So after two months absent, now I’m about to bring a new topic into discussion. We’re going to talk about time expressions which include days and months.
These are names of days () in Korean:
  1. 일요일: Sunday
  2. 울요일: Monday
  3. 화요일: Tuesday
  4. 수요일: Wednesday
  5. 목요일: Thursday
  6. 금요일: Friday
  7. 토요일: Saturday
And below is the list of months () in Korean:
  1. 일월: January
  2. 이월: February
  3. 삼월: March
  4. 사월: April
  5. 오월: May
  6. 육월: June
  7. 칠월: July
  8. 팔월: August
  9. 구월: September
  10. 십월: October
  11. 십일월: November
  12. 십이월: December
I know how difficult it is to read minute hangeul unless you’re a native or expert of Korean. That’s why I enlarge the font size a bit so as to make it more readable. Enjoy!

Word Focus: "Young"

Hi again! This time let me tell you all some synonyms of or related to the word ‘young’. 
  1. little/ small (adjective): children below the age of 6
  2. teenage (noun): someone between 13-19 years old
  3. adolescent (noun): someone who developing into an adult
  4. youthful (adjective): looking young
  5. kid (noun): a young person (informal)
  6. teenager (noun): someone who is between 13 and 19
  7. youth (noun): a man or boy between 15 and 25 (slightly having negative connotation as it refers to a young man involved in fighting or crime)
  8. minor (noun): a young person who isn’t yet legally adult

(source: Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English)

Speaking about Apostrophe: Thanks VS Thank's

Howdy everybody! Sunny Monday morning fuels me to type something on my blog.  I feel like my brain gets overflowing with plenty scintillating ideas to write. How about you?
It seems like I’m so in the mood to write grammar-related problems lately. I don’t know why and please don’t ask. Perhaps I miss proofreading my former students compositions and of course my college classmates’ final projects. Sometimes  a part of me whined why they made such a great number of grammatical errors, misspellings, etc. The other part of me, however, enjoyed  it to a certain extent. I’d better stop hashing my own past ‘misery’ now. Haha…
Ok guys, onto business! Reading the whole title above provides enough hints about what we are about to discuss here. We’re talking about how important a punctuation mark named ‘apostrophe’.
First thing first, you have to know how an apostrophe looks like. It looks like a comma but it ‘flies’ in the air, unlike comma which loves to stay in the bottom. 
So, what’s the difference between the two words above, “thanks” and “thank’s”? As you notice, there’s an apostrophe and it makes the whole meaning completely different.

Before proceeding to the deeper part of discussion, let me tell you that the apostrophe has three major functions:
(…) it marks the possessive form of nouns and some pronouns, the contraction of two words, and the omission of sound within a word (Thomas S. Kane in ‘The Oxford Guide to Writing: A Rhetoric and Handbook for College Students’)
Back to the duel “thanks” VS “thank’s”, so here is the question; is the apostrophe really needed here? My answer is NOT. The presence of the apostrophe is absolutely not needed, in fact it creates misunderstanding. What I mean by misunderstanding here is that the apostrophe followed by -s may be interpreted as:

THANK’S — the contracted version of THANK IS or THANK HAS
But if what we want to do is thanking people for doing good deeds for us, the correct option is “THANKS”, NOT “THANK’S”.

Thesaurus: Say 'Goodbye' to Dull Writing

Basically, bloggers are writers. Yes, we are writers. Everybody is and can be a writer if they want to. And it is better for us -bloggers- to master some of writing techniques and methods. It sounds too complicated, I know, but believe me it will pay someday. 

The way we arrange words and the style we use to compose a piece of writing  are equally great tools to attract more visitors and readers. Some visitors may find your  writing style cool and bookmark your blog just to pay a visit on your blog over and over again. So it gets easier for you to attract more readers if your writing is fresher and less monotonous. 
Writing a blog in our mother tongue or first language is already challenging. Sure we can imagine how challenging it is to write a blog in a language other than our first language, in this case Indonesian (because I was born Indonesian). 

As for me, I always try to write in English on this blog and on my two other blogs (my Korean blog which I had abandoned and a spiritual blog). The problem I encounter at times is lack of vocabulary. Yes, I’m quite sure all of us have experienced this ‘ordeal’. It is somewhat tormenting to read an article with such a monotonous style, only using a certain group of words and never gives some new atmosphere. And what hurts more is to know that that article belongs to us!

Taking myself as an example, when I started learning how to write in English I always used the word ‘good’ to describe a  positive trait or characteristic that something or someone has. But what I don’t know is that word is much too general and using it all the time throughout our writing is ‘killing’ our readers slowly with boredom. So instead of always saying ‘good’, I can say ‘excellent’, ‘great’, ‘admirable’, ‘agreeable’, ‘kind’, ‘nice’, ‘pleasant’, ‘cool’, ‘awesome’, ‘superb’, and so on.

So this is what I usually do to freshen my writing a bit. After typing and publishing my post, I sometimes proofread and criticize it as if I were someone else who happened to be reading my post.  Positioning ourselves as our blog readers can be advantegous because we at the very least try to know how they think and digest what we already wrote. As I spot a hackneyed word or phrase (‘hackneyed’ means ‘repeated too often’ just like the word ‘good’), I resort to a thing called THESAURUS. No no no…it’s not another newly-discovered dinosaur species whose fossil was just dug by a bunch of scientists. 

Thesaurus is a book, looking like a dictionary but only containing a list of synonyms (and sometimes antonyms). Mine is The New International Webster’s Thesaurus. It cost really cheap and will not cost you a fortune. So don’t expect to find words meaning in a thesaurus. You’ll never find it even until hell freezes over, I can guarantee that , folks. 

A thesaurus is a savior that just rescues you from a calamity called ‘being labelled an uncreative blogger’. In case you get bored and get sick of using one particular word for a thousand times, try to find the synonym in your thesaurus. 

Before you complain about where and how to buy it, let me tell you that  by default you can actually find thesaurus in your Microsoft Word! I said ‘by default’ since you don’t have to install it beforehand. It’s already embedded in Microsoft Word. 

Suppose you have no idea about how to make use of the thesaurus featured in Microsoft Word (MW), kindly follow these simple steps:
  1. after opening MW, rightclick on the empty white worksheet stretched before you,
  2. locate ‘synonyms‘ in the option list, and drag your mouse to the left,
  3. voila! You already find thesaurus! 
  4. simply click on it and a ‘research‘ tab will pop out in the right window pane,
  5. type the word you wish to find its synonyms inside the ‘search for’ box,
  6. make sure your thesaurus is English, not France or Spanish,
  7. click the green arrow icon or press ‘enter‘,
  8. appears a list of synonyms and you’re ready to choose which of the words suits your preference best.
To make sure you’re using the right word in the right context, don’t forget to check it in your reliable dictionary. No money to buy a dictionary? Try to download a free e-dictionary to be installed on your PC or cell phone right here. So, what’re you waiting for? Let’s start writing now, people!

(image cred

On Failure

This isn’t the article I promised but I guess it’s worthpublishing as well. I accidentally found this on my facebook favorite quote. I don’t even remember I already wrote that. As the quote is also about affecting our spirit or soul, I think publishing it here is not a betrayal towards the blog’s major theme.

One great source of failure is found in a lack of concentration of purpose. There will be adverse winds in every voyage, but the able seaman firmly resists their influence, while he takes advantage of every favorable breeze to speed him on his course. So in our aims and pursuits we shall find much to counteract them, much to draw our attention from them, and, unless we are armed with a steadfast purpose, that can subordinate the lesser to the greater, that can repel hindrances, resist attractions, and bend circumstances to our will, our efforts will not be crowned with success.

Assalamualaikum, readers!

It’s always nice to greet people for the first time. And speaking of ‘first’, this is what I’m about to tell you.
I got inspired to write this blog after reading Umar Sahid’s messages in my Facebook inbox every other day or so. I plan to fill this blog with his spiritually inspiring articles, which he’d sent me since a few months ago. While I was writing this very post, I was also waiting for his approval. This is for the sake of courtesy.
I may publish the articles without telling Umar Sahid but I prefer telling him because what I’m going to publish is his writing. But here I’d like to tell you that his writing was originally written in Indonesian and I wanted to translate and rewrite it in English, with my own style of course. Basically, however, I’ll do my best to get the message across without having to be someone else. 
As soon as Umar Sahid gives his consent, you all can read great articles here.

Monetizing Your English Grammar and Writing Skills

When someone is pretty much dissatisfied with their current income or just finds himself sacked owing to the crisis, the idea of getting a side job is naturally tempting. No one can resist extra income, can they?

What I’m trying to write is my own personal experience about how to make some money from my writing skills.
Just several days ago, I stumbled upon a site which is aimed at providing a virtual hub of freelance jobs. It was such a divine coincidence as I was also looking for a job that is relatively easy to get. And freelance job sounded like a perfect answer to my prayer. No complicated recruitment process, no applying. What I need to do is just sign up. Signing up enables us to bid any freelance posted jobs on the site. Promote ourselves, fix a decent service rate, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get some hirers trying to employ you. But of course, we have to determine what kind of expertise we have. I chose writing, blogging, copywriting, translating as my areas of expertise. That simple.
Now I’m engaged in a article writing job. I’ll get paid $2.5 per article I manage to make. and that was just a starting price. I am promised to get paid more in case I can improve my quality in the future.  I just started and don’t really enjoy the financial benefit yet as this is my debut work.

Hope I can make considerable sum of money by doing this! Dreaming of purchasing a new laptop!

Grammarless Speaking

This has been my source of curiosity which I always keep in mind. I have been learning English for years and I have observed some of my classmates, the students I taught, or even myself on how to acquire speaking skills. Sometimes I encountered some learners able to speak fast, seemingly fluent, very native-like at a glance. Nonetheless, when we try to rewind (suppose we record utterances they spoke), we are likely to discover some fundamental grammatical slips, errors, or mistakes that should have been able to be avoided by a student at such level (university level, to be exact). The opposite case is that there are folks who look so cautious while speaking, which finally results in halted, unsmooth speech.It has been a source of debate since long time ago, I guess, whether grammatical accuracy is compulsory in our speaking or not.
Now, I bring the debate here, right on this very post. On one hand, some people are inclined to say that in order to speak fluently and naturally, we must ignore  or at least don’t have to pay attention to grammatical rules and restrictions. On the other hand, the others say quite different an opinion, grammar is needed under any circumstances, including speaking.
So, what about you, readers? Do you really think grammar is important in speaking or not?