grammatical question


        English is not my mother language, and I am somewhat puzzled with a grammatical rule (or set of rules): 

When do we put the article «the» before a word? When do not we put it? … icles.html

that should help


Come to think of it, I can’t tell you…

Thats either a complete failure on the part of my English teachers or a triumph on Wittgenstein’s part…

Dear Sâmkhya,

Articles (a/an/the)

These rules aren’t always true but here’s the basics:

if the word is a noun (the name of something) and it begins with a consonent (ie NOT aeiou) eg. “table” and it is not plural eg. NOT “tables” and it is not uncountable eg. “milk or water or rice” then you put ‘a’ in front.

table - a table (correct)

You can’t say a milk (incorrect) because milk is always plural (you can say “a bottle of milk” though - because bottles are countable).

If the noun starts with aeiou then it takes ‘an’

an octopus, an elephant, an exam etc… (correct)

BUT be careful - if the start of the word ‘sounds like’ a consonant eg. university “YOO-NEE-VERS-ITY” then it takes ‘a’.

an university (incorrect) a university (correct)

Now ‘the’ is where it gets difficult.

We use ‘the’ before a noun if:

It is unique in the world - “the Taj-Mahal”, “the Empire State Building”.

It is so common everyone knows what it is - “the cinema”, “the bank” etc.

It is defined (we have information about it) eg: “the dog” (incorrect - we don’t know which dog we’re talking about) but:
“The dog that followed me home last christmas.” (correct) because now we know which dog we’re talking about.

It is the second time you mention the same object inn a paragraph eg.
" I saw a man the other day, while I was shopping. The man was carring a child in his arms…"

Homework for you: If you can give me the answer to these, I will say your English is fantastic and you can throw away all your text-books… :slight_smile:

  1. “The doctor had been giving the patient drugs before his death”

There are two problems with this sentence: one of meaning and one concerning the passive form, can you tell me what they are…?

  1. “there is seven mistake on this sentense” can you find them…?

  2. “They saw a plane in the car while they were travelling to the airport.” is this a true sentence…?

btw - from your post I’d say your english is pretty decent anyway. :smiley:

Thank you very much

  1. no capital letter in the begining
  2. no dot at the end
  3. there are seven
  4. seven mistakes
  5. in this sentence
  6. sentence
  7. there are only 6 grammar mistakes, which means that the 7th is in meaning.

am i correct?

Totally M. Thinktank.

I have another question of grammar.

Sometimes I read: outside X
Sometimes: outside of X

What is the difference? :confused:

the second has an extra preposition, that’s all


So they are completely equivalent?

Depends how you are using “outside”…

“I am going outside today.” would not make sense with an ‘of’ after ‘outside’, unless you wanted to make clear you were time-traveling… then you would definitely want to use an ‘of’ after ‘outside’.

Also, if you are going to the outside chair (rather than the chair that is inside), you wouldn’t say “I’m going to the outside of the chair.”

I clearly ain’t no grammar queen, but that’s my two cents.

but if you were going to the outside of the chair as opposed to the inside of the chair…


and if you are going outside x, outside is a preposition… if you are going outside of x, outside and of are both prepositions… if you are simply going outside, outside becomes a noun… mind you one cannot go “of”…


…unless you’re a valley girl… then you can go “Of” … and then, like, you can go “course not! Duh-uh!”

Dear Sâmkhya,

Everyone is right to a point, and wrong…

If you use ‘outside’ as an addition to give more information:

The “outside pool” compound noun
The “outside chair” compound noun
The “outside track” compound noun

in these cases ‘of’ is not required. (And also the contraction ‘outer’ is better usually)

But these only make sense if there is an ‘inside chair’ and an ‘inside pool’ - otherwise it’s a meaningless addition.

Of course you can use ‘outside’ by itself as a noun:

“I’m going outside” no ‘of’ required.

Just about the only time you use of with outside is if you are emphasizing the relation spatialy with another object…

“Be careful to stay on the outside of the line…! Don’t cross over”

“Drive around the outside of the roundabout

“He cleaned carefully around the outside of the wound

You will also notice that in each case that ‘the’ is used, because you are using ‘outside’ as part of a noun group ie:

" You see that line over there…?" (undefined ‘line’)
“The line around the body…?” (now defined hence ‘the’)
“Yes - I want you to stay on the outside of the line - you might mess up the evidence” (defining a space with reference to the already defined noun)

note: you could also say “stay outside the line” which shows a general rule. If, in a complex noun group, before ‘outside’ there is a ‘the’ then there is an ‘of’ after it…

Hope this helps. :wink:

‘that’ replaced ‘the’

Oops : He’s absolutely right. :blush: The ‘over there’ defines it. No gold star for me today…

also, tabula rasa, there are diferent parts of speech “outside” (an adverb) and “the outside” (noun?). so i don’t think you can use “of” with outside as an adverb.

i’m not an native speaker, but i would understand “outside of X” as some improper (not necesatily incorect) way of saying “except X”. but i guess that it doesn’t seem the same to a native speaker.

another two cents to the case…

actually it could mean “except x” and not improperly:

“There are 20 blue cubes, outside of the first 3 red ones.”


Sorry Imp. - You’ve stated that there are 20 blue cubes (main clause)- then you’ve said the first 3 blue cubes are actually red (subordinate clause)…Hmm.

“there are 23 cubes, 3 of which are red, and the rest, blue.”

I’ve been trying to think of a situation where saying something like:

“I like all kinds of food, outside of pizza”

…would be grammatically ok (maybe ok in American/Australian English), but I’d have to say no: “except pizza” or “apart from pizza” is the way to go - of course you’d get your meaning across - but people would say - “Hey you’re foreign, aren’t you…?” just after… :smiley:

At a stretch you could say it metaphorically:

“Everyone know’s about the plan except Jack”
“Jack’s outside the loop concerning the plan.”

Outside can never be an adverb - adverbs modify verbs and as a general rule have “ly” at the end (“fast” for example is an exceptionon). “He ran quickly” “he spoke slowly” Can you think of any way to use a verb with (your new word) “outsidedly:confused:

perhaps the sentence was awkward, but nonetheless using the phrase “outside of” to exclude or seperate from others is quite common and quite correct… … itions.htm