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I was wondering about a sentence like this:

If nature were to design a bicycle, how would it look?

Is nature missing an article? Should it be "a nature" or "the nature", or is it correct as is? Could you also explain why?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Nature, in this context, means "Mother Nature", so it's more of a proper name in this case, which never requires an article.

'Nature' can also mean "a defining trait" as a general noun, such as "Human nature". In those casees, articles are possible, such as in

it is the nature of the scorpion to sting

I can't think of an example where one would use "a nature", with an indefinite article, except in compound words such as

He is a nature lover

in which case the article refers to the "lover" part, of course.

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There are several of these words that spring to mind :)

Compare for instance

All earth's children are beautiful. Earth's atmosphere protects it. We only have one earth, we should cherish it.

Or, slightly in a different direction:

God's creation is beautiful. Many a god lived on Olympus. The god of small things.

When used without an article, we refer to the entity or idea as a personification of that idea or entity. With an article we refer to it as either a specific instantiation or physical representation of the idea.

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2  
"We only have one earth" does not work as an example. The article is absent because of the presence of one. It has nothing whatsoever to do with what noun follows. –  RegDwigнt Oct 18 '13 at 10:38

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