Please, help me understand the grammar behind "some" and "zero article".

As I know, we use zero article with plurals in the same cases when we use indefinite articles with singular -

  • making general reference
  • making mention for the first time

On the internet I couldn't find that "zero article + plural" is used while talking about something for the first time. Instead I could only find the rule that it is used for general reference. Is it so?

Here is an example:

"(Some ?) Computers were brought to me. They were expensive"

Would it be correct to say without "Some"? I understand that this is not a very natural thing to say, but from the position of grammar can it be used for the first mention? I assume that the listener has not heard about me buying any computers.

I also read that "Some" is an analog of a/an for plural, maybe this is why I couldn't find the rule of using zero article for first mention - "some" should be used instead?

What do you think about these questions?


  • If a school headmaster said "[Some] badly-behaved students are sent to see me in my office", the absence of "some" would imply that all the bad boys are sent (assuming they can all be identified). Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 22:28
  • @FumbleFingers You begin with badly behaved 'students', and then talk about 'bad boys'. Are there no badly behaved girls in this school?
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 22:30
  • @WS2: In my universe, little girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice. They would never be badly-behaved. Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 22:32
  • @FumbleFingers And I'd completely forgotten all that, and the 'frogs and snails and puppy dog's tails'.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 22:36
  • @WS2: Our boys were always snips and snails, but I never understood why.Circumcision-related "in-joke", perhaps? Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 22:37

1 Answer 1


You do not need an article before plural nouns as long as it is being used as a generic noun.

For example:

Computers have motherboards and CPUs.

is a perfectly valid sentence. Or:

Computers are brought to my store to be fixed every day.

However, in your example, you are not using "computers" generically. You are specifically referring to computers that were brought to you. In this case, an article is required.

"Some" works as a decent analog of "a/an", and so it works here. You could also use "a few" or any similar adjective phrase.

  • I think you are putting it a bit strongly to say that 'an article is required'. During the meeting computers were brought in for demonstration purposes sounds perfectly plausible to me. In the same way cups of tea and sandwiches were provided.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 22:33
  • In both of those examples, you are using those plural nouns as generic nouns, so no article required.
    – Nick2253
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 22:37
  • Well, what's the difference between my saying 'Computers were brought in to the meeting...' and the OP saying 'Computers were brought in for repair...'. The question as to whether 'some' is required seems to me to rest on something else. But being a native speaker I don't know of a rule!
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 22:50
  • @WS2 The combination of three factors in OP's question make it unlikely that "computers" is a generic noun, which is why an article is required. The fact that the computers were brought "to me" indicates a more definite use of the noun, and the fact that it happened in the simple past (which is generally used for definite actions), and the fact that an unqualified, specific fact about the computers is revealed (they are expensive). You are correct; there is nothing grammatically wrong with the zero article. But it is incompatible with the rest of the question.
    – Nick2253
    Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 22:58
  • Thanks for the answers. Nick2253, I asked if the zero article can be used instead of "some" for the first reference? What is the answer? Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 10:00

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