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I'm practicing articles and at the begining it seemed quite easy, but now i'm completely confused. Here are reasons:

Several million visitors a year are attracted to the ski slopes of the Alps.

As long as it's plural - there should be no article - I guess.

I went to --- Buckingham Palace today. It was great.

I took the train to London and then the underground to --- Victoria Station. It’s a short walk from there.

If you ever go to London you must see the Tower of London and --- Tate Gallery.

There's one and only one (definite) Buckingam Palace (/Victoria Station / Tate Gallery). Whatmore it's name of building. Considering that - why it's without article?

After his wife’s death he left --- home and joined the army.

John himself doesn't go to ---- church.

Does both 'home' and 'church' are treated as 'general' here, and that's why no article?

There will always be a conflict between the old and the young. ----- young people want ---- change

Isn't the old and young general thing and then should be left without article?

It's right that there aren't so many ways of spending ---- daily life in the suburbs.

Why suburbs are so specific in this sentence?

I'm bit confused and hope for native english speakers or experienced learners it won't take much time to clarify my concerns.

  • Did you concoct the sentence on your own ? I mean, what is the source ? the computer, computer, and computers, and the computers can be used in a common sentence. This depends on the writer's intents. – Cardinal Mar 25 '16 at 14:06
  • However, when there is a single thing in the world, especially a prominent one, usually the article is omitted. For example, name of the continents, famous land marks and so on – Cardinal Mar 25 '16 at 14:09
  • @Cardinal - I disagree. The Louvre, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Washington Monument, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pyramids...but then there is also Buckingham Palace, Fallingwater, Notre Dame, Stonehenge... The best we can say is that it's inconsistent. – stangdon Mar 25 '16 at 14:15
  • @stangdon yes, thanks for correcting me. I think usually is very strong adverb. – Cardinal Mar 25 '16 at 14:23
  • @Cardinal, sure I should be more precise. All examples are extracted from those files: goo.gl/x3GlRC and goo.gl/JfkIfs It seems, that the easiest way to learn articles is to forget about them and hope to sound correct :-) I mean, do we really got confused if i say The Notre Dame? :-) – Damian Drewulski Mar 25 '16 at 16:07
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The use of articles is a complex topic and can cover whole chapters in grammar books. I'll just go through your sentences.

Several million visitors a year are attracted to the ski slopes of the Alps.

There's a definite article in front of “ski slopes” because the sentence is about a specific group of ski slopes: the ones in the Alps. If there it was just “∅ ski slopes”, it would mean “some ski slopes [but not all of them]”, and then the complement “of the Alps” would sound strange since it wouldn't be defining a set anymore. “∅ ski slopes in the Alps” would be fine; in that sentence, “attracted to the ski slopes of the Alps” implicitly designates all the ski slopes in the Alps, while “attracted to ∅ ski slopes in the Alps” makes it clear that only some ski slopes are attractive.

While we're at it, why “the Alps”? Most proper nouns don't take an article. But most plural proper nouns take the article the, and mountain ranges are plural (there may be exceptions but I can't think of one). The Alps, the Andes, the Himalayas, … Individual peaks normally don't take an article: Mount Blanc, Mount Everest, Aconcagua, …

I went to Buckingham Palace today. It was great.
I took the train to London and then the underground to Victoria Station. It’s a short walk from there.
If you ever go to London you must see the Tower of London and the Tate Gallery.

The default rule for proper nouns is that they don't take an article. I highlighted a few more — London doesn't take an article.

The Tower of London takes an article because it's phrased as a common noun with a qualifying complement. It's hard for the X of Y to lose its definite article, even if the clause as a whole becomes a proper noun.

Then we have Buckingham Palace vs. the Tate Gallery (the Tate Gallery does take an article). As a rule, people's homes (including official ones) don't take an article: ∅ Buckingham Palace, ∅ Mansion House, … (But *the White House, because white is an adjective here, not a name, so it's like the House of X.) Nor does transportation infrastructure: ∅ Victoria Station, ∅ Heathrow Airport, ∅ British Musem (the former tube station), … But museums and monuments do: the British Museum (the museum), the Tate Gallery, the Washington Monument…

After his wife’s death he left home and joined the army.
John himself doesn't go to ---- church.

Home and church in these contexts are general concepts and take the null article. It's rare for home to take a definite article (usually, in contexts that would require it, a word like house is used instead); the church means a specific building (“the church is being renovated”), and the Church is a religious institution (out of context, usually the Catholic Church).

There will always be a conflict between the old and the young.

“The + adjective” means “people who are X”. More generally, it can mean the elements in an implicit category that satisfy the adjective, e.g. “predators catch the sick and the wounded” (implicit category: animals).

Young people want change.

People in the sense of a collection of persons never takes a definite or indefinite article. “The people” and “the English people” are different meanings of the word people: a social or national grouping.

Change in this sentence takes the null article because the sentence is about the general concept. Young people want change in general, not a specific change.

It's right that there aren't so many ways of spending daily life in the suburbs.

There is no article before “daily life” for the same reason as “change” above.

“The suburbs” is rather an exception to the general rules of articles. It's a set phrase, meaning peripheral areas of cities in general. I can't see a logic to it, but the usage is undisputed.

  • When you note that "the + [adjective]" is a separate case, it might help to give the name for such a construct: a nominalized adjective. – Edward Mar 25 '16 at 16:46
  • @Gilles many thanks for your diligent work. I'll need some time to familiarize with your explanation but it is understandable now. – Damian Drewulski Mar 25 '16 at 16:47

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