Thousands of people watched the tidal bore of Qiantang River in China.

phenomenon (something which happens in the nature)


I have noticed two mistakes in using the article (the name of the river used with the zero article and the word "nature" that does not require the in the sense it is used in the news story). The news team did not agree with me and gave me no feedback. Is there any foundation for using the article this way?

  • 1
    the nature is certainly not idiomatic there. With rivers the article is almost always used when the name precedes "river" or when the name is used without the word "river". The museum owns a painting of General Washington crossing the Delaware. Maintenance of the bridge across the Delaware River is funded in part by tolls.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 16:07
  • 1
    @Tᴚoɯɐuo I agree that the article is definitely required when the name is mentioned without "river". But where the name follows "River", as it always does in Britain, you do also need the definite article. "There has been extensive flooding along the River Severn in recent winters".
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 15:40
  • @WS2: I've seen and heard constructions like on River Severn and that's why I said "almost always" rather than "always". Samuel Johnson in his dictionary uses it without the article, and there are more modern attestations as well.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 15:56
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo I'll not argue with Samuel Johnson, but as a native UK speaker any modern absence of the article, in this sense, sounds odd to me.
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 17:15
  • The problem is that in the exercises attached to the news story the word "nature" is used with the zero article: "...something which happens in nature". How should it be explained to students? Perhaps, I'm too concerned about other people's slips :)
    – Yulia
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 17:43

1 Answer 1


According to the Oxford Dictionary definition 1, nature is a mass noun, otherwise known as uncountable. Under some circumstances, you can use a definite article with a mass noun: here is a good explanation of when not to do this:

If we want to refer to something general and the nouns that we are using are either plural or uncountable, we leave out articles. Definite and indefinite articles in English Grammar

No article is required for nature in your quote.

When you talk about a river, ocean or sea and you use either the name on its own or the name and designation, you normally use the in front of it. Strangely, this doesn't apply to lakes, ponds, brooks and streams.

The estimable Tᴚoɯɐuo may quote references saying that you can talk about the river Severn without a definite article, but I lived near the Severn for the first 20 years of my life, and I never heard anybody omit the definite artice.

I therefore think that you have a very strong case for saying that Qiantang River deserves a definite article.

You say "the Level 3 version of the article uses much more natural-sounding English". Level 3 probably uses news reports verbatim or with few changes. The Level 2 version will require rewriting rather than minor changes. The company that produces this web site is based in the Czech Republic and, while their efforts are commendable, it is clear that they are not native English speakers.

  • I am not sure that I'll be using this website again (though I like the idea of news stories written for different levels).
    – Yulia
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 13:16
  • Yes, it is a nice idea. I used to use newspaper articles: I asked students to read them and then write a summary in exactly a hundred words. It is useful because the students don't have to be creative, but they do have to try out various ways of saying the same thing.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 14:27

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