Answers to Questions About Articles
1. I found the follow information about the indefinite article a in The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary: “used before uncountable nouns when these have an adjective in front of them, or phrase following them. For example, “a good knowledge of French”; “a sadness that won’t go away.”
I don’t understand the information. The dictionary says that the a is used before uncountable nouns when these have an adjective in front of them. But, as far as I know, the indefinite article a cannot be used in front of uncountable nouns. Does the information mean that we can always use the indefinite article a in front of uncountable nouns that have an adjective in front of them? Is it a rule?
Mass, or noncount, nouns can be preceded by the indefinite article a when they are modified by a preceding adjective or a subsequent phrase: For example, though you would refer to bravery as courage, not “a courage,” you can write of “an uncommon courage” and “a courage like no other.” However, the passage from the resource you mentioned refers only to the possibility of the former type of usage, not to its ubiquity; it is rare.
2. Something I would like some clarification on is the use of a or an before the word holistic. I have been taught an, but this doesn’t seem to make sense to me, as there are many instances when a word beginning with h is preceded by a rather than an. Are you able to shed some light on this?
Use a or an before a word that begins with the letter h depending on whether the h is pronounced: “a historic occasion,” but “an honest mistake.”
3. I don’t know what to do with the names of institutions when they call themselves a name with the in the title — for example, “the Open Door.” In the middle of a sentence, do you have to capitalize the? Would you say, “We met at The Open Door”?
The direct article should be lowercase even when it is integral to an entity’s name (as in “the American Automobile Association,” when it would not be referred to, minus the, as “American Automobile Association”), but many entities insist on capitalizing it as part of a branding identity. (And it’s best to do so for indirect articles, as in, for example, the name of a community center called A Place for Teens.)
If you work for the Open Door — or it’s giving your organization money or other consideration — and management at the Open Door wants the name treated as “The Open Door,” treat it as “The Open Door.” Otherwise, style it “the Open Door.”
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