Date: [this is an updated old posting, previous to LSEG4 edition]
Q15: Dear Sirs,

I have quite a few questions about English grammar to which I cannot find answers, and I wonder if you could help me with at least one of them which has been nagging me for a while.

I am Russian, a former English teacher, only for the last fifteen years I have been working as a translator/interpreter. Now, all English Grammar books say that in expressions similar to "Room 20, Chapter 2" no article is used--I learned this rule when I was 7. In my translations I often have to use expressions/forms similar to:

According to Article 7 of the Federal Law No 57 . . .
Pursuant to Clause 5.2 of the Contract No 33
. . .

I have no problems with dropping the article before the words "Article" or "Clause", though I think the rule should also work for the possessor noun of the analytic genitive. I inserted the article "the" before "Federal Law No 57" and "Contract No 33" almost against my will. Do I make a mistake? Thank you in advance. Kind regards,

From LK - Russia

GREEN LEAF RA15. As it is customary by now, we first sent a brief answer to our reader LK, though we did promise a more detailed one in this page. Now, we have to apologize to LK, and to all our readers, because the initial "short answer" was/is/(will be) intentionally too general, and even a little off the point. Our "short answer" to LK follows next.

Dear LK,

Thank you for your email. Your question is interesting, therefore we may post it, together with its “complete” answer, in our "Interesting Grammar Questions" page; until then, here is your short answer. Please do not worry because we do respect the identity of all our readers.

During the last ten or twenty years, the manner in which we communicate messages (this is, in any language) has become very, very complex. Even more, this trend is going to increase into the future. Due to this particular aspect--increased “technical” complexity of the meaning of our messages--we can often discover expressions/forms that seem to be atypical, idiomatic, or “not quite right”. Using, or not, the definite article exemplifies possibly the best the mentioned increased complexity.

The definite article--you are talking in your question only about the definite article--is used to determine/(point out) previously mentioned or known nouns. Note that, when we “present” a noun for the first time, the definite article becomes an instrument needed to determine/specify the noun appropriately. However, if the noun is sufficiently pre-determined by its adjectives, numerals, by compound-noun constructions, using a synthetic genitive, or if it is a proper noun, then it happens many times that a definite article is not needed--consequently, you do not use one.

When the noun is sufficiently pre-determined, it works similar to a proper noun construction, therefore it is advisable to mark it in writing, whenever possible, using the adequate capitalization. The topic of “pre-determined nouns” is explained in Logically Structured English Grammar, Edition 3, which we hope to publish sometimes next year.

All the best to you,

Now, in spite of their perplexing simplicity, both English articles are used improperly--possibly, more than any other sentence element. We have mentioned only two instances of using the definite article, in our short answer to LK, but there are many more. Further, we have to point out that English grammar is not restrictive, dear readers: we can express the same message in a few correct grammatical forms, depending on the "accent" or the "highlight" we intend transmit. Let's analyze a little the mentioned examples.

According to Article 7 of the Federal Law No 57 . . .
Pursuant to Clause 5.2 of the Contract No 33 . . .

Both forms above are correct. The definite article is missing before "Article 7" and "Clause 5.2" because they are equivalent-nouns working as "proper nouns"--using the proper capitalization helps us identifying them as such. Further, the article "the" ahead of the equivalent-nouns "Federal Law No 57" and "Contract No 33" is used in this particular instance to "highlight" or to "stress" the importance of these two nouns--if that was the true intention of the author. However, we could also use the following forms.

According to Article 7 of Federal Law No 57 . . .
Pursuant to Clause 5.2 of Contract No 33 . . .

GREEN LEAF RSince the equivalent-noun constructions "Federal Law No 57" and "Contract No 33" work as proper nouns--this is clearly marked by capitalization--they do not need to be additionally determined by the definite article "the". In this instance, however, the previously mentioned "accent/stress" or the "highlight" are both missing.

Now, because English grammar is not restrictive, we can easily express the same messages using other correct forms of expression.

According to Federal Law No 57, Article 7, . . .
Pursuant to Contract No 33, Clause 5.2, . . .


According to the Federal Law No 57, Article 7,  . . . (with some accent/highlight added)
Pursuant to the Contract No 33, Clause 5.2, . . .
(with some accent/highlight added)

The "meaning" and the "accent" in English grammar are extremely delicate topics because many times our messages take/have elliptic/implicit forms. Consider the following.

According to the mentioned Federal Law No 57, Article 7,  . . . (with explicit accent/highlight added)
Pursuant to the previously mentioned Contract No 33, Clause 5.2, . . .
(with explicit accent/highlight added)

Controlling similar subtle meanings, plus many other interesting aspects, are nicely presented in our books, Logically Structured English Grammar 4 and LSEG4-Exercises Workbook.

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