Are these sentences correct according to my reasoning?

  • (The) x axis represents time.

  • (The) b variable is the length.

Since x and b are specific nouns, so we drop the articles.

  • The subject is in (a) resting condition.

"Condition" is a noncountable noun here so it doesn't need an article.

  • In a task-based protocol, the experiment is repeated over many trials.

Both "task-based protocol" and "experiment" are general nouns in a definition. But "experiment" is also specific in that it refers to the "experiment" in a "task-based protocol" so we should use "a" for "task-based protocol" and "the" for the "experiment".

  • 1
    I am afraid you have not given enough information in your question. What kind of document are you talking about? It makes all the difference whether it is a formal essay or, for example, user instructions. Is your first language English? If not, is it a language (like Russian) which in many cases does not use an article which in English would always be used?
    – Tuffy
    Nov 11, 2021 at 8:42
  • Also, you might or might not need an article depending on the use in the sentence. "In my task-based protocol, important experiments are repeated..." Note that you didn't use one yourself before "trials." Please edit your question to tell us more about the context you're asking about! Nov 11, 2021 at 15:59
  • Articles are not determined by the noun phrase they're in, but by that noun phrase's meaning and use in a sentence. Without sentence examples, there's not enough information; it's like a list of PDFs with no boundary conditions. Nov 11, 2021 at 17:09
  • @Tuffy It is for my thesis which of course should be formal. I'm not a native speaker and I don't understand how my own language might affect the correctness of my writing in English. Nov 11, 2021 at 20:58
  • I rewrote the question to be more clear. Nov 11, 2021 at 21:41

1 Answer 1


While x in "x axis" might be a noun, if it is then it's an attributive noun which functions as an adjective.

Consider a question and answer like

Which frame is largest?
The door frame is largest.

The main noun in your sentence is axis, and that does need an article, just like frame does in my example.

The same applies to your sentence about the variable, but we wouldn't generally phrase it as "The b variable": it would be "The variable b is the length". Here, b is a name, and the sentence is analogous to something like "The man Andrew is the president". That's a slightly defective analogy, but we certainly wouldn't say "The Andrew man is the president".

Condition in your third sentence is a countable noun. The subject could be in one of any number of conditions, resting or running or anything else. Because it's countable, it needs an article, and the indefinite article is appropriate.

Your reasoning for the last sentence is correct.

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