Most advanced ESL writers can use the indefinite (a/an) and definite (the) articles correctly but have problems using the zero article (meaning, no article at all).

The problems are either the use of an article when there should be no (zero) article present or the zero article being used when either a/an/the should have been used.

For example:

  • INCORRECT: She’s afraid of the snakes.
    (Meaning: she’s afraid of specific snakes.)
  • CORRECT: She’s afraid of snakes.
    (Meaning: she’s generally afraid of snakes.)

Another example:

  • INCORRECT: He’s giving speech.(There is a missing “a” before “speech”, since we refer to a single, non-specific speech.) 
  • CORRECT: He’s giving a speech.(The “a” before “speech” shows that we refer to a single, non-specific speech.)
  • CORRECT: He’s giving the speech that you wrote for him.
    (The “the” before “speech” shows that we refer to a specific speech.)

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