104

The original printing had "an ass" instead of "an mule". That error was not lost on the chemistry community. See, for instance, Krenos's 2004 review of the text in the Journal of Chemical Education: In Chapter 10, bonding in extended conjugated systems and resonance are introduced with the horse + donkey = ass analogy (it is likely the hybrid animal mule ...


89

It's just a typo, and it probably originally said "an ass". That would have been changed because it's incorrect (an ass is a donkey, not a horse–donkey cross) and, even if it were correct, the fact that ass means well, you know, ass, might be distracting enough to make it worth changing. Another source of this kind of typo is when an adjective has ...


82

The noun for an inhabitant of Britain is Briton. British is an adjective. For many countries, the adjective and noun are identical. As you've found, German and American are good examples. The noun for an inhabitant of China has historically been Chinaman but in recent times, the word Chinese has been increasingly used.


45

The article to use does indeed depend on how you pronounce the symbol when speaking out loud. Since @ is usually read out loud as ‘at’ /æt/ in English, it takes the prevocalic article an, as you surmise. (It can also be called the commercial at, but that is rarer, and I would not write a @ unless I’d already specified that it was intended to be pronounced ...


39

Your dictionary may list British and Chinese as nouns because they are used as collective nouns, to refer to the population of each country as a whole or as a generalization: The British are mad about football (soccer). Compare with Americans are obsessed with football (not soccer). The British is really just a short form of The British people, ...


26

The example given is not parenthetical: (i) I need a (memorable) idiom. A parenthesis is a remark which you insert into the middle of a sentence as if you are interrupting yourself. A parenthesis contributes to the meaning of the sentence but interrupts and stands outside its syntax. In writing, we typically use curved brackets, dashes, or commas to mark ...


19

Vincent McNabb is correct. If you want evidence based on "credible and/or official sources" that this is the rule followed in formal English writing, here is my suggestion. I ran Google searches on Google Books only, meaning the bulk of the search will be against professionally edited and published works, not random web sites. I searched only for phrases ...


18

A few old grammar rules A great many, a good many, a few.—These are very incorrect and bad phrazes; and the singular article can never be properly used with a plural noun. Since Few words on Many Subjects was published in 1831, English has seen quite a few changes. I don't know whether this rule was enforced at schools, but I did find another example ...


17

You can use scissors with a singular verb anytime you want. However, to prevent getting into arguments, you may wish to limit this usage to medical scissors. Or you can say 'if a scissors was good enough for Emily Brontë, then it's good enough for me'. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) notes that using scissors with plural concord is "the usual ...


16

It doesn't make any difference at all whether the article is modifying an acronym, an initialism, a proper noun, a French borrowing, or anything else. English article form is determined solely and entirely by pronunciation. And not at all by spelling. The rule for the pronunciation of articles in English -- definite and indefinite -- is that they have one ...


16

OK. I think the singular article is used because in each of your examples the plural nouns make up a single unit of time. The same structure would be used with other units of measurement: a weighty three bags of coal a full ten bottles an arduous eighty kilometres In such case, the unit of measurement is the noun phrase which includes the ...


15

I am no expert, but I am a native English speaker (American). I would interpret "I went to church" to mean "I attended a church service". "I went to the/a church" would imply I visited a building.


15

OED: World 5b. A period or age of human history associated with particular cultural, intellectual, or economic characteristics or conditions, or indicated by the character of those living in it. 1849 T. B. Macaulay Hist. Eng. I. iii. 401 These were men whose minds had been trained in a world which had passed away. 1991 R. Ferguson Henry Miller viii. ...


13

The choice between a and an is determined by the initial sound, and not the initial letter, of the following word. Most people pronounce 'h' as 'aitch', making an appropriate. (I say 'most', because some people pronounce it as 'haitch'.)


13

The problem is that sometimes there is an easily available adjective form but not an easily available noun form. This is also complicated by the fact that we can form a collective noun from an adjective by adding the definite article, such as the rich or the famous. Now British, English and Welsh are adjectives, and we can certainly talk about the British, ...


13

Bare Coordination This phenomenon is one that is not at all well understood, and also one which is currently the subject of much academic research. It is an example of Bare Coordination. This is when coordinated noun phrases (NPs) which we would otherwise expect to take a determiner of some description appear "bare" with no determiner or article at all. By ...


12

The rule for using the article a versus an is exactly the same as the rule governing whether one pronounces the article the as /ðə/ or as /ði/. Both rules operate for the same reason: they make it easier to pronounce and understand an article as distinct from the NP following it. If that NP starts with a vowel sound, we change the article’s pronunciation. ...


11

Such and so are degree quantifiers. Such goes before noun phrases and so goes before adjectives and adverbs; they're alternants. Adjectives: She is so good [that she can make anything]. She is so good at carpentry [that she can make anything]. She is so good as a carpenter [that she can make anything]. She is so good a carpenter [that she can make anything]....


11

Your friend is almost there, but the key here is that in "what a beautiful day", the day does not refer to the day at hand at all. The day at hand is omitted from the sentence. "What a beautiful day [it is]", "What a beautiful day [this day is]". This becomes clearer still if you look at the same construction in closely related languages such as German. This ...


11

The question seems to be, how does a non-native speaker determine whether a given noun is a "role" or if it has some titular sense (so that it can be used "bare")? She became treasurer. [OK] She became student. [not OK] She became student of the month. [OK] She became doctor. [not OK] She became doctor to the king. [OK] It was gateway to the rose ...


11

According to the OED, scissors has a long history of use with a singular concordance (see examples below). Although the New English Dictionary (1910) - the original title of the Oxford English Dictionary - marks this sense as erroneous. 1565 T. Cooper Thesaurus at Forfex A sisers, or sheares. 1847 E. Brontë Wuthering Heights I. ix. 164 Now, don'...


11

Both "I rate this book three out of four stars" and "I rate this book a three out of four stars" sound acceptable to me. "I rate this book a three" seems grammatical to me (although maybe "I give this book a three" would be a more common verb in that kind of sentence). So I think the use of the indefinite article would remain grammatical when the additional ...


10

I can’t for the life of me figure out where to use a and where to use the — and where there is no article at all. Is there a simple rule of thumb to memorize? The standard rule you always hear: “If a person knows which item you are talking about then use "the" . . . doesn’t clear things up for me, as I have no idea whether or not they know. That'...


10

Only look at the pronunciation of the word immediately following the article The choice between a and an for the indefinite article is always based on how the beginning of the very next word in the noun phrase is pronounced. The grammatical role of that word in the noun phrase is irrelevant. Spelling is also completely irrelevant, except insofar as it ...


10

There are two different words. Rather, the same animal name is spelled opossum əˈpɒsəm BrE; əˈpɑːsəm NAmE as well as possum ˈpɒsəm BrE; ˈpɑːsəm NAmE -- both the words are recorded by OALD8. Each of the words is pronounced according to its initial sound, as usual. Specifically, one does not write opossum and read it possum. It follows ...


10

Spanish is an adjective, so no article. A Spanish man is a Spaniard. Note that for many other nationalities, the form of the adjective and the noun is the same: American, an American German, a German Italian, an Italian Russian, a Russian Chinese, a Chinese Japanese, a Japanese Greek, a Greek I have a feeling that for most nationalities the adjective and ...


10

When people say I met him on the street, they are usually not referring to a specific street. Instead, they mean I met him outside in the city as opposed to I met him at a party or I met him at a friends house. Basically, they are using "the street" to refer to "the city/urban environment" They are (almost always) not referring to an actual street because ...


9

... the average X... conveys the sense of some abstraction representing a category, and allows you to treat that abstraction as if it were a person. Think of those pictures where many faces are "averaged" to produce some kind of composite, but generalized to non-physical (or not only physical) attributes. That is, the average Canadian doesn't refer to any ...


9

You can. But usually the unadorned phrase minutes later (or seconds later) is reserved for emphasizing shortness of time in a way that "a few minutes later" doesn't really manage to convey, despite the fact that brevity would seem to be underscored by a qualifier like "a few" (which term is more likely to call attention to the inconsequentiality of the fact ...


9

[Disclaimer: this answer reports my own research on the subject] This is the last vestiges of a change that took place during the Middle English period. In many languages, singular count nouns can be bare (without an article/determiner) when they are used as predicative nouns. After the copula, the types of nouns that can do this are usually restricted to ...


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