I saw a phrase on the curb. Literally: "NO DUMPING. FLOWS TO BAY". Why there is no article before "bay"? Bay is countable, and I think article should be there. Or it may be Bay? (The curb situated in SF Bay Area, probably bay is Bay here)?

Articles are pain for me.

closed as off-topic by MetaEd, tchrist, RegDwigнt Jul 17 '13 at 18:44

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    It looks to be an abbreviated version of "No dumping. Whatever is dumped here will flow into the bay". If it were a full sentence, an article would be used. – Kristina Lopez Jul 17 '13 at 18:03
  • Yes, it may be a shortened version - curb is very limited. OK, but in the full phrase, article "the" should be used? – demi Jul 17 '13 at 18:05
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    This question belongs on English Language Learners. – MetaEd Jul 17 '13 at 18:13
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    Yes, in an uncompressed version of the phrase, you would use "the bay". (This is so even if there were more than one local body of water that the drain might drain into, because it can only go one place and it doesn't really matter which one. For instance, I live in a city near three rivers, but the equivalent signs say "DRAINS TO [THE] RIVER.") – zwol Jul 17 '13 at 18:17
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    Possible duplicate of: english.stackexchange.com/questions/31410/please-use-other-door – Kit Z. Fox Jul 17 '13 at 18:30

Signage in English often uses short, clipped phrases instead of complete sentences. If you were to rewrite the message from this sign as a full, grammatically standard sentence, it would be something like:

Dumping is prohibited. This drain flows to the bay.

Phrases such as ‘No Dumping. Flows to Bay’ would not normally be used in spoken or written English. However, they occur quite frequently on signs, where brevity is essential and the meaning is usually easy to understand. Other common examples include:

Beware of Dog. [full sentence: ‘Beware of the dog.’]
Keep Off Grass. [‘Keep off the grass.’]
Insert Coin. [‘Insert a coin.’]

  • Good answer. You might also mention that articles are usually the first thing that gets dropped from this kind of clipped English, followed by pronouns that can be inferred from context. And that it's called "telegraphese" for historical reasons. – zwol Jul 17 '13 at 18:19

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