This is a little known article. The reason for that, is that it is invisible!
When we use no article in front of a noun, it is called the zero article. To understand the zero article, you need to know about two concepts:
- Abstract noun – this is a noun that you cannot know through your five senses. (e.g. peace, hate, love)
- Plural count noun – these are nouns that cannot be counted. (e.g. cars, cellphones, paperclips)
We use the zero article before abstract nouns and plural count nouns. For example:
- History is a fascinating subject. (History is an abstract noun.)
- She collects photos of cats. (Cats is a plural count noun.)
We are talking about history and cats in general.
The history is a fascinating subject. She collects photos of the cats.
Now, here is the catch. There are times when we use the definite article with these nouns. We use the definite article when talking about specific abstract or plural count nouns. For example:
- Mary has specialized in the history of medieval India.
- She takes care of the cats in her building.
In the above sentences, we are talking about a specific history (medieval India’s) and specific cats (the ones in her building).
We cannot write:
He has specialized in history of medieval India. She takes care of cats in her building.
Hope you are now more aware of this lesser-known article. Look out for them when you read and write.