I was taught to use plurals when speaking of things in a general sense, but this is not helpful to non-native English speakers. I cannot remember the term for the rule; I think it is the zero article. Can someone please help? Examples below:

I like oranges. (in general and countable noun) I like information. (in general and uncountable noun)

Dental hygienists work longer hours. (in general) Student sentence: Dental hygenist works longer hours. (in general)

  • (1) Longer hours than what? We would say "long hours" unless we were comparing with someone else. (2) "Dental hygienists work long hours" is correct. (3) "A dental hygienist works long hours", with an indefinite article, is also correct, but is less common (and much less common in speech). (4) "Dental hygienist works long hours", with no article, is incorrect. (5) "Hygienist" has "ie", although the spelling is difficult for native speakers, too.
    – rjpond
    Sep 20, 2021 at 7:44

1 Answer 1


You have sort of answered your own question - the "zero article" is the correct term for situations where you use a noun to have a broad general meaning as opposed to identifying a specific person or thing.

There isn't really a 'common term' that you could replace "zero article" for, but most people would use the expression "in general" to qualify what they meant, for example:

  • I love oranges. In fact, I love fruit in general.

Your examples are mostly fine, except for the one about dental hygienists. "Dental hygenist" is singular, so that wouldn't work in a zero article situation. Also, "longer" is a comparative term, so you should just say "long hours".

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