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In the phrases like: Watch out for (the) avalanche. Watch out for (the) flame.

Note: It shouldn't mean immediate warning. And there is no question of a particular avalanche or flame.

Examples (these are just examples from the Internet, I don't know if they are correct).

A. Moreover, the stag receives amazing sambuca show in one of the bars – so, watch out for the flame!

B. Just continue on, but watch out for the flame when you get there.

C. So, good luck on the seventh stage. Also, watch for avalanche.

D. Watch out for the avalanche though. Listen to the locals for the news about the avalanche ahead.

  • Yes, you do. It has to do with the noun form, not the preceding phrase. You might add why you are considering dropping the article, rather than us trying to guess. – user3169 Oct 16 '18 at 5:36
  • @user3169 My guessing is in the note. There is no question about particular avalanche or flame. And I'm not only talking about dropping the article, but also about using an indefinite article. I fixed the question to make it clearer. On the Internet, I see such phrases with a definite article and without an article. – user2802606 Oct 16 '18 at 9:31
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In writing or speaking, you do need an article — definite or indefinite — if the noun is singular:

  • “Watch out for the dragon.”
  • “Watch out for a monster.”
  • “Watch out for problems.”
  • “Please read the book.”

However, you may see the article dropped in some writing. There is a certain style of phrasing that you see in warning labels, instruction manuals, posted signs, where these are commonly dropped:

  • “Watch safety video and push button to enter”
  • “Push lever forward to limit”
  • “Beware forklift traffic”

This style of writing is usually limited to official instructions.

  • 1
    Thank you for your answer. No, I'm not talking about special instructions. My examples are just ordinary phrases. And I am asking about the definite article, not about any article in general. According to your answer, those examples without any article are just wrong, correct? Should I really say "watch out for a car when you go out"? – user2802606 Oct 16 '18 at 11:23
  • The 'style of phrasing' you describe is not limited to official instructions: it can be seen in most notices. It is also common in newspaper headlines, and is referred to as 'headlinese'. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headlinese – JavaLatte Oct 16 '18 at 12:59
  • @JavaLatte with respect, there are similarities but also some differences between Headlines and Instructions/Labels. Headlines are even more truncated, for example “comma for ‘and’.” – whiskeychief Oct 16 '18 at 13:20
  • @user2802606 if you mean “avoid accidents”, you’d say “watch out for cars”. (That is, “any and all cars” — plural.) – whiskeychief Oct 16 '18 at 13:22
  • Yes, I mean "avoid accidents". – user2802606 Oct 16 '18 at 13:36
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If you are not talking about specific flames or avalanches, you don't need a definite article. If you are talking about one non-specific flame or avalanche, you need an indefinite article: if there's anything other than one, you need to use the plural without an article. I have corrected your examples, with explanations of the corrections:

A. Moreover, the stag receives amazing sambuca show in one of the bars – so, watch out for the flames!

I would be very disappointed with a sambuca show with only one flame, so it should probably be plural. These are specific flames- those of the sambuca show- so you need to use a definite article.

B. Just continue on, but watch out for the flame when you get there.

It's difficult to say without knowing the context, but this sounds like the flame is a landmark that you will see when you get close enough. It's singular and specific, so you need a definite article.

C. So, good luck on the seventh stage. Also, watch out for avalanches.

D. Watch out for avalanches though. Listen to the locals for the news about avalanches ahead.

Both of these sentences are not a specific avalanche, or even a single non-specific avalanche: they refer to avalanches in general. It's non-specific and plural, so no article.

  • Thank you for your answer. It turned to be almost all my examples are just grammatically wrong, right? Yes, I'm not talking about any specific object. So, do I really need to say "Watch out for a car when you go out" or "Watch out for a flame when you get close to the fire place"? – user2802606 Oct 16 '18 at 11:32
  • Read my first paragraph again. In both of the sentences in your comment,there's probably more than one car/flame and they are non-specific, so you use the plural without an article. "Watch out for cars when you go out" and "Watch out for flames when you get close to the fire place" – JavaLatte Oct 16 '18 at 11:47
  • It makes sense. Would it be wrong using the definite article in this cases? I mean, "Watch out for the cars when you go out" and "Watch out for the flames when you get close to the fire place"? – user2802606 Oct 16 '18 at 11:57
  • It depends what exactly you are thinking about when you say it, and whether the listener will think about it in the same way. It would be wrong for the cars unless you are thinking about specific cars, and the listener knows which cars you mean, but you could be thinking about "the flames from the fire", which would be specific, and the listener would probably understand that, – JavaLatte Oct 16 '18 at 12:30

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