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Response to Veronika's first post

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Abigail Abigail | 15:25 UK time, Thursday, 2 December 2010

Welcome, Veronika. It's so nice to read your first blog post. You've chosen such an interesting topic. Now I'm just waiting to discover the secrets of Belarusian beauty, fashion and food! So no pressure, then...*

You speak really excellent English, but I would like to offer you some tips, which might help you express yourself even better.

* 'No pressure, then,' is a phrase we use quite often in English. We're joking, because we actually mean the opposite. 'You are now under a lot of pressure!' Everyone is looking forward to your posts.

So, some tips:When you speak another language, it's hard to know when to use 'the', when to use 'a' and when to use neither. As you probably know, 'the' is called the definite article, 'a' is the indefinite article and '-' is... neither! How to use these articles varies from language to language. In Belarusian, do you have no definite article, like in Russian?

Country names.
In English, most country names have no article at all: Russia, England, Belarus. We also say 'Europe' not 'the Europe'
But some take the definite article: The USSR, the US, the United Arab Emirates, the UK.

Uncount nouns
We would also say 'we waited for mobile communication for about 15 years,' not 'a mobile communication. 'Communication' is what we sometimes call an uncount noun. You can't count it. And these don't normally have an article.

Other examples of 'uncount' nouns:
- water
- happiness
- sunshine

The only one
You're absolutely correct when you say 'the world' and 'the first hypermarket.' There is only one 'World' and that's why we use 'the.' And we always say the first, the second, the third and so on.

Share your tips!
I'm not sure I'm explaining this well. It's very difficult to explain why and when to use these articles. Does anyone else have any clever ways to explain or remember the rules? Please share them with us!

Now I'm really curious to know more about Belarus, Veronika, and looking at the comments to your first blog entry - everyone else is too!
All the best


  • Comment number 1.

    Dear Abigail,
    Nice to meet you ;) and thank you very much for your tips! To be honest, it is easier to remember\understand the rules than to get used to it :) Some mistakes are really careless mistakes though the rule seems to be simple… I’m afraid that just hard and long training can help to use articles mechanically correctly. And it is very important to notice all mistakes, so thanks again that you draw my attention to it. And I also liked the expression 'No pressure, then,…', I have never heard it before. As for me, this pressure is pleasant, so as I’ll be glad to tell (write) as much as possible and to do my best during this month.

  • Comment number 2.

    great job!

  • Comment number 3.

    Dear Abigail,
    Nice to meet you.
    As Veronika said it is very important to notice mistakes, so I appreciate doubly the grammatical aspects that you pointed out.
    The problems with uncorrected mistakes is that they become ingrained habits, and later it is very difficult to change them.
    Thank you for your efforts to help us.

  • Comment number 4.

    Dear Abigail,
    Thanks for your explaining!
    It is the first time I've visited this site on BBC. Your explaining is very useful for me and others to learning English.

  • Comment number 5.

    Thank you Abigail

    Your comments and gramatical corrections are very helpful. We would really like to hear from you again specifically about how to use definite and indefinite articles.

    Thank you. Gul

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Abbigial welcome to this month blog , sorry for my late comment . I have been snow in recently with my duties as a mother and as a work woman and recently my kids illness . That 's life … some ups and downs . May god bring peace and health to my little family . I 'm not used to this kind of troubles : (
    How lucky you are , you live in such a green place . I wish to see your local place in spring and summer . You made me laugh when you said poke wearing bin bags ! But after reading your complete entry it was reasonable . Some times to be snow in isn't so bad , is it ? I love to be at home in snowy days next to heater with a cup of tea , don't you ? As one of the readers mentioned I think I 've heard your voice already maybe in some of BBC LE down loads … .Hope to hear more about you and your Job ! This month is a special month and I think your entries will be some how related to new year and all activities related to it .
    I 'm waiting to read more from your side .
    Thank you so much for the grammar explanation ) (
    Have fun and bye

  • Comment number 7.

    When learning a new language we have the vicius to mix up rules of our mother language and the language we are learning! And we can't help the word just pop up! Sometimes not even time help us! lol

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Dear Abigail
    This is the first time I visit your blog and I confess that it's a great discovery :-)
    Your post is really interesting. I appreciate when people correct mistakes because it's always beneficial for the one who made the mistake. If nobody notice them, this mistakes will be repeated again and again until becoming a bad automatism. So please, continue !
    I liked the anecdote about "No pressure then".
    Bye !


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