3

I'm sorry for too many items below. I'm really confused. The question is really about whether to use "a", "the" or nothing in front of "news" and "television".

  1. A small crowd is keenly watching the news on television.
  2. A small crowd is keenly watching a news on television.
  3. A small crowd is keenly watching news on television.
  4. A small crowd is keenly watching the news on a television.
  5. A small crowd is keenly watching a news on a television.
  6. A small crowd is keenly watching news on a television.
  7. A small crowd is keenly watching the news on the television.
  8. A small crowd is keenly watching a news on the television.
  9. A small crowd is keenly watching news on the television.
6

All variations apart from those involving a news are valid, but they're not completely interchangeable.

When television is used without an article, it generally refers collectively to the entire system involved in transmitting/receiving television broadcasts. To the extent that actual television receivers are relevant to such usages, we're generally talking about more than one. Thus OP's versions referencing news on television are unlikely, since the implication is that the crowd are using the medium of television to watch the news - probably on several different (hand-held?) televisions.

If television is preceded by an article, the implication is there's only one television, which all the people are watching. Whether it's a or the simply depends on whether earlier context has already identified that specific television set.

Having said that, idiomatically people often include the article even when it's certain more than one television set is involved...

I chatted on the phone to her last night while we watched Coronation Street on the television.

Most speakers today wouldn't use the article there (it's reminiscent of an older generation who thought of the television as a unique/remarkable piece of new technology). It's not "wrong", just a bit "dated".


As regards news, the situation is somewhat more complex. Most commonly, it's the news, because we conceptualise it as a specific program being broadcast. So, for example...

"Did you see the news last night?" (normal English)
"Did you see news last night?" (unlikely, would be considered "invalid" by most native speakers)

But there are contexts where the speaker thinks of news as a more "generic" concept...

"I don't watch the news on television. I keep up-to-date through radio and the Internet"
"I don't watch news on television. I keep up-to-date through radio and the Internet"

It's hard to argue there's any real semantic difference between the above. With the article (probably the way most people would express it), I'm saying I don't watch any of the specific news programs. Without the article, I'm saying I don't watch news programs in general. But in practice they mean the same thing.


In OP's context, the crowd would normally be watching the news - largly because that's idiomatically the more common form. But if in the context of his narrative the actual content of the news broadcast is irrelevant, the article could validly be dropped. Since the article normally is present, its absence would normally be interpreted as implying that the crowd are simply watching news in general, rather than a news bulletin concerning something of relevance to his narrative.

  • I've never heard "on the television" before. Maybe I'm too young :-) – snailcar May 27 '13 at 17:41
  • @snailboat: The effect is more pronounced with listen to {the} radio, where you can clearly see "the" becoming less likely as people stopped thinking of radios as new technology so awesome it deserved to always be referenced with an article. But plenty of people [still?] say they saw it on the television – FumbleFingers May 27 '13 at 18:00
2

4 seems to be intuitively the most correct usage. 6 can also be considered correct, if "news" is a concept (or class) and not an "object". The same applied to using "the" before television too, if your context refers to a particular television (e.g. the one your living room), "the" can be used.

2

A news is wrong; the news means "a broadcast or published report of news." I would say "A small crowd is keenly watching the news on television." or "A small crowd is keenly watching the television news."

Notice that "watching television" as in "Michelle was sitting on the sofa watching television." means "watching television programs."

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