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1) In the first few weeks, when I was new to the project, I made a lot of mistakes.

2) In the first few weeks, when I was new to computer (or computers?), I made a lot of mistakes.

Is the second example with "new to computer" correct? if yes can I say:

3) In the first few weeks, when I was new to project, I made a lot of mistakes.

if not, why the second example is correct but the third is not, is there a general rule?

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"New to computer" and "new to project" are incorrect. You could be new to computers, in which case you are new to all computers, or you could be new to the computer, meaning this specific computer you are working on. You could even be new to a computer, meaning that you are new to a specific computer, but you are not saying which one. That would be strange, but I don't see anything grammatically wrong with it.

In your first sentence, that is correct because the speaker is new to the specific project he or she is talking about, and may or may not be new to projects in general. It would be a little odd to say one is "new to projects" since most activities people do can be considered projects, but someone who does not have much experience with computers could definitely say they are "new to computers".

Edited to add

As the other answer pointed out, in the case of computers the gerund is also acceptable: "new to computing". But this is only true because a "computer" is "something that computes". A "project" is not "something that projects", and therefore "new to projecting" is incorrect. It might mean that you are new to speaking loudly to an audience, or new to using a projector to display images on a screen, but not that you are "new to working on projects", which would be the correct form.

  • Thank you, then you mean I never can use computer as a generic term, in an idiom or something? – Ahmad Aug 5 '15 at 16:08
  • I can't think of any example where you would. Generic concepts are usually going to be plural or take an article. I only say "usually" because all English rules have exceptions, not because I can think of any for this one. – TBridges42 Aug 5 '15 at 16:14
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New to computer

and

new to project

Neither is correct.

The noun must be in the plural to express the idea of a domain: new to computers. Either that, or an ing form to express a general type of activity: new to computing.

The definite article is used to refer to a specific project: new to the project.

  • If I say the sentence (1) to a stranger who don't know about any project I do, what the project refers to for him? can I say such sentence to him? – Ahmad Aug 5 '15 at 13:29
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    You are engaged in a conversation with him, presumably, so he does indeed know what you're talking about, from context. If you walk up to a stranger and say "I'm new to the project", he will assume the project is one that lets the insane walk freely around the city, to see how they do. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 5 '15 at 13:30
  • You mean I always can say such sentence? can you imagine a situation where I can't? – Ahmad Aug 5 '15 at 13:31
  • Can I imagine a situation where you could not say "I'm new to the project"? Yes, I can. It's any situation where your conversation partner has no idea what project you are talking about. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 5 '15 at 13:35
  • in the situation you described, If I only want to say him just that phrase, I should say when I was new to a project? what if I want to continue later to add which project, can I begin with that sentence? – Ahmad Aug 5 '15 at 13:38
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In general in English, you need an article -- "a" or "the" -- whenever you use a singular noun that is not a proper name. There are some pronouns you can use instead of an article, like "one" or "some". You CAN use "the" with a plural if you want to specify a specific group, but normally you do not.

Examples:

"I was new to the computer." Speaking of one particular computer. Article required. Singular, article required.

"I was new to computers." Speaking of computers in general. Plural, so no article.

"I was new to the computers." Speaking of one specific set of computers, perhaps those of a certain type or owned by this company.

"I bought one computer." Singular so an article would normally be required, but we use the adjective "one" instead.

  • Then can I say I was new to two computers which were bought recently – Ahmad Aug 5 '15 at 15:04
  • @Ahmad: Not usually, no. Note that X is new to A essentially means from A's point of view, X is new (i.e. - A has only recently encountered X). Idiomatically we often switch the "perspective" - for example, I'm new to marriage (I haven't been married long). But that's essentially a "figurative" usage (the state of "marriage" has no consciousness, so it can't really "experience" you being in that condition). The figurative usage tends to breaks down if A is a very specific "real-world entity" such as one or two particular computers that have never "met" anyone at all. – FumbleFingers Aug 5 '15 at 17:21

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