English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

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?

share|improve this question
up vote 11 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.

share|improve this answer

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.

share|improve this answer
"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

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.