Sometimes we seem to need to use nouns with no regard of whether they are definite or indefinite. One instance is when we want to define things. Consider the following example:

On the one hand, testimony is often thought of as an intentional act on the part of the speaker and, on the other hand, testimony is often thought of as simply a source of belief or knowledge for the hearer. Source

In the text, "speaker" and "hearer" are mentioned for the first time, and no definite speaker or hearer is in writer's mind, because the sentence is defining testimony. On the other hand, to use indefinite articles would obviously be misleading too. It seems to me, therefore, that in sentences such as the above one we should not use any article with the nouns in question.

One way out of the above problem is to use the plural form of such nouns. But then in some sentences, such as the one mentioned above, to use plural forms can be misleading too.

So, what is wrong about just using no article with such nouns?

  • 1
    What is wrong is that English requires some sort of determiner with singular nouns. It's the way the language works. – Andrew Leach Aug 30 '17 at 12:37
  • 1
    These two uses are examples of generic noun phrases. See www-personal.umich.edu/~jlawler/000001.html – AmE speaker Aug 30 '17 at 12:48
  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is not a question about the English Language but an apparent proposal for changing it. – David Aug 30 '17 at 12:56

"Testimony" implies there is at least one speaker and one hearer. It is definite. Just like:

I rang the bell and presently the waiter came in.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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