The following post on the usage of articles with proper names is not going to be 100% grammatically correct. It’s not that I’m going to insert typos here and there. What I mean is that the rules stated here are just rules of thumb and will not work all the time. I am not a grammarian; I am a teacher. Thus my aim is to compress complex grammar into a small pill that learners can take whenever they encounter a problem. Using this pill, students will make some mistakes, but most of the time they will get the grammar correct.
So in this post you will find a simple infographic explaining the usage of the definite article in front of proper names. There are also several games you can use to practise the most common English names. I hope you will find the explanation useful even though it will not work in all cases.
Articles with names – infographic
Ask your students to look at the infographic. Explain that using the definite article before names is very complicated in English and there are very few rules to guide them.
However, as they can see from the infographic, we managed to come up with a few.
Explanation: Most of the man-made structures that stand outside (where they get rained on) do not take an article. Most of the buildings where common people go inside to enjoy themselves take the article THE. Thus it is Oxford Street, but the Ritz Hotel. Notice that palaces do not take the article THE because they are not for common people. However, the Tower of London takes the because it is for the common people :-).
Articles with names – infographic
Now that you have explained the grammar, it is time to practise the grammar. You can use either some worksheets, or you can try our games here.
The first game is called Penalty Shootout. In this game you should choose the correct option and then try to score a goal. Good luck.
As the game is in Flash, it will only play on desktop computers.
The second game is called Fling the Teacher. To win the game, you have to answer all the questions by choosing the correct options. If you answer all the questions correctly you will fling your teacher. (But I am sure that he/she will not mind as long as you know all the names that take articles 🙂 ). The game is in Flash and it will only play on desktop computers.
As there are no articles in my mother tongue, using them correctly in English is a real challenge. Like many other non-native speakers, I often leave them out or use one too many. And my students do this too.
I have been thinking for years how to teach articles effectively and finally I feel that I found the way. I created a mind map which shows the thinking process you should go through to have the articles correct.
Articles – mind map
There are two mind maps. The first one is simpler and the other is for more advanced students.
The mind maps show the thinking process you should go through to get the articles correct. Start at 1 o’clock and go clockwise.
Articles – Video
If you still feel that you need more explanations, you can watch the following video explaining the usage of the definite article “THE”. The recording was prepared by BBC learning English.
Articles – games
For those of you who regularly come to our site there are two new games this time. The first one is a classical game called Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. You have to answer all the questions correctly to win this game. Good luck!
Articles – Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
The second new game is called Fling the teacher and your task is again to answer all the questions correctly. If you manage to do this you will fire the teacher :-), because you will not need him any more.
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