My native language is Finnish that doesn't exactly have articles. It has never felt like limitation. This why it has been hard to understand why there is need for the articles. I feel like I'm just using huge amount of time for trying to remember grammar rules. Like when to use articles and when to not while not gaining any benefit from it.


Obviously, I understand that the rules say they must be there (Because I already said so). My question is this:

  • What bang do speakers get for their buck in English, for using articles—when so many languages don't have them at all?
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    @HotLicks, my understanding is Finnish is wildly different from any other language except possibly Hungarian and some central Asian languages. It's not even an Indo-European language, so certainly not a Germanic/Scandinavian one. – The Photon Aug 5 at 17:41
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    Forget grammar rules. Try listening and remembering examples. All languages present difficulties to learners. I am sure Finnish has things that might seem the same way to English speakers. – Lambie Aug 5 at 17:44
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    English doesn't have vowel harmony. This has never seemed like a limitation to me. Different languages have different features. Not all of them are entirely necessary. Natural languages, like naturally selected life forms, have extraneous and inefficient characteristics. Will English speakers stop using articles? Not in our lifetime. Should you try speaking English without articles? Sure, go ahead and try. It may work. – Juhasz Aug 5 at 17:44
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    There's a lot of difference between "We went to see Queen" and "We went to see the Queen". And between "He's got cold" and "He's got a cold". And "There was a toast" and "There was toast". And "They weighed the anchor" and "They weighed anchor". – Edwin Ashworth Aug 5 at 18:27
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    @psosuna — It’s not my job to point him to ELL, which may not even accept this sort of question. He’s the one that is ranting about wasting his time, and he’s the one who should have read the label on the site. There are certain things about the different ways languages work that one discovers early in one’s first encounter. Accept it and get stuck in. – David Aug 5 at 22:22

English usage has grown up around articles and their use. Articles currently serve to distinguish between various synonyms and nouns in general. They serve the purpose and would be tough to replace. In Scotland they may speak English with a great economy of articles but I do not know why.

You might tell us how in Finnish you would distinguish between going to see Queen, the band, and going to see the Queen, the ruler of England, as the comments suggest. Or even explain how one could aspire to be a queen vs the Queen. This is not to be accusatory or snarky, I have great respect for the Nordic languages but cannot imagine how it would be done without articles or similar syntactic furniture. I imagine a fleet of idioms coming into play perhaps.

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    Well, the difference between seeing Queen (the band) and the Queen (of the UK) would be very easy in Finnish: one is Queen, the other is kuningatar. ;-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 5 at 21:30
  • @JanusBahsJacquet most bands have ‘the’ as in ‘the Beatles’, ‘the Rolling Stones’. ‘Queen’ without the article was a style choice. – Tuffy Aug 5 at 23:10
  • "the" in band names died out in the Seventies. There's probably an interesting question/answer there. – Gort the Robot Aug 9 at 18:24

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