The Zero Article

No article – the so-called ‘zero article’ – is a term used for situations when
a noun or a noun phrase in a sentence need not be preceded by a definite article (the) or indefinite article (a, an). This usually occurs with plural and uncountable nouns that have a general meaning.

  • I need cup of coffee. – indefinite article
  • I like the food they serve in this restaurant. – definite article
  • Cats drink milk. – ZERO article
  • I like comics. – ZERO article

We can use the zero article (no article) in the following ways:

Zero article with proper names

We usually don’t use articles with proper names:

Names of people

  • Yesterday I saw Tim Smith.
  • He is a fan of Michael Jackson.
Note: We can still use ‘the’ to differentiate between two or more persons that might have the same names:

Was it the Tim Smith who visited our meeting last Friday or someone else? (who visited our meeting determines the name Tim Smith)

Geographical names – cities, states, countries, etc.

We use zero article with the following geographical names:

1. Continents

  • There are 54 countries in Africa today.
  • This mountain range is the highest in Europe.
Note: The exceptions are the Americas (North and South America), the Antarctic,the Arctic.

2. Countries & cities

  • London is the capital of Great Britain.
  •  You’ll see many beautiful sights all over Vienna.
Note: Some places, specifically some countries, do have the definite article ‘the‘ in front of them, i.e. the United Kingdom (the UK), the USA (the United States of America), the Netherlands, the Hague, the Vatican. See more in ‘Article with Proper Nouns“.

3. Lakes & mountain peaks

  • They live near Lake Michigan.
  • Many people try to reach the top of Mount Everest.

4. Streets & roads

  • Jill lives on Summerside Avenue.
  • Meet me on Santa Monica Boulevard at 9:00.

Names of places and institutions

We use zero article with the names of public institutions, companies, shops, restaurants, etc.:

  • We agreed to meet near Victoria Station.
  • Is Cambridge University the oldest in England?

Zero article with names


We use zero article to talk about places and institutions whose purpose is clear to everyone, including the phrases with ‘home‘, ‘work‘, ‘bed, etc.:

  • Children start school in September.
  • It’s time to go to bed, kids!

We use zero article with names of days, months, seasons and holidays, certain parts of the day:

Days, months, seasons

  • We usually meet on Monday.
  • November is quite cold.
  • They agreed to meet at noon.

Sports and disciplines

We use zero article with games and sports, academic subjects and disciplines:

  • He is good at tennis.
  • I liked History at school.


We use zero article with names of meals:

  • I’ll have fruit for lunch.
  • Let’s go out for dinner tonight.

Movement or transport

We use zero article with names of means of transport:

  • I’m leaving town tomorrow by car.
  • I go to school by bus.


We use zero article with names of languages, but if the word ‘language‘ is present, we use ‘the‘:

  • Do you speak French?
  • Nothing drives me harder than my passion for the English language.


We use zero article with names of materials:

  • Gold is found in Australia.
  • They are mining for tin.

Zero article with ‘noun + number’

We use zero article when a noun is preceded by a number:

  • He is in room 45.
  • Please turn to page 67.

Zero article with plural nouns

We use zero article with plural nouns:

1. that are not specific

  •  I see flowers in the vase.
  • We have bananas in the kitchen.

2. to talk about a class of things in general

  • Cheetahs run faster than any mammal. (the whole species in general, not particular cheetahs)
  • Rivers always flow into seas and oceans.

Zero article with uncountable or abstract nouns

We use zero article with abstract nouns and uncountable nouns:

  • Do you like coffee?
  • Lily needs money.
  • Love is in the air.
  • We seldom see courage like that.

Zero article with other determiners

We use zero article when there’s a determiner before a noun or a noun phrase:

  •  I need some information.
  •  My house is next to the bus stop. (NOT: The my house is next to the bus stop.)

Watch this video from Your English Web containing good explanation of uses of zero article:

Read more about articles:

Articles with Proper Nouns

The Indefinite Article

The Definite Article

Leave a Comment