Articles are something which cause lots of non-native speakers problems.
For many students this is simply because articles don’t exist in their language, which makes understanding their use difficult. Learning how to use articles like a native speaker can be challenging because lots of medical nouns follow rules for articles.
In the example above, ‘operation’ is a type of procedure. Procedures are countable and so they require an article.
Here are some examples of procedures which require articles:
- blood test
- stool sample
- CT scan
Quiz: Test your knowledge!
Think of other procedures with similar endings to the nouns below. Note: Your answers are likely to be countable nouns.
|Countable noun:||Your answer:|
Possible answers: lumpectomy/tracheostomy/colonoscopy/echocardiogram.
Exceptions to this rule:
As with many grammar rules in English, there are some important exceptions. Some medical procedures are uncountable. This example here is commonly used in medical writing:
|Mr X requires surgery next week to remove his appendix.|
Examples of uncountable medical procedures
An important tip for identifying uncountable medical procedures is to look carefully at the endings of these words. Take a look in the examples below.
|Kidney dialysis||Mr X has kidney dialysis 3 times a week.|
|Catheterisation||Post-operatively, Ms X underwent catheterisation.|
|Rhinoplasty||Rhinoplasty was performed 3 days ago.|
|Angiography||Mr X underwent angiography.|
|Liposuction||Mr X had liposuction twice last year.|
|Acupuncture||Mr X visited a Chinese medicine doctor for acupuncture.|
|Breast screening||Ms X has had annual breast screening.|
Remember: Articles also do not need to be used with medical conditions.
Did you know?
ALL nouns ending in ‘therapy’ are uncountable. Examples of this are:
|Physiotherapy||Mr X needs to commence physiotherapy.|
|Chemotherapy||Mr X requires chemotherapy.|
|Occupational therapy||Occupational therapy has been recommended.|
Turning uncountable nouns into countable nouns
Some nouns are confusing because if you change the ending slightly, they become countable:
|Breast screening||A breast screen.|
What about plural nouns?
Articles can be omitted before plural nouns.
- X-rays were carried out, which revealed a left pneumothorax.
- Blood tests showed raised cholesterol levels.
- The wound was cleaned, and dressings were re-applied daily.
Choosing the correct indefinite article
We know that ‘a’ or ‘an’ are used to describe a non-specific noun, which is general, and not known to the reader.
Remember to think about how the noun sounds. Use ‘a’ before a consonant sound, and use an before a vowel sound.
- Mr X had an ultrasound.
- Mr X requires a left knee replacement.
Beware! Some nouns may start with a consonant, but still use an before them. This is because the SOUND of the word still begins with a vowel.
- Ms Jameson requires an X-ray. (pronunciation = an ex-ray)
- Ms Jameson had an MRI today. (pronunciation = an em R I)
Quiz: Test your knowledge!
Try this QUIZ to test your understanding. Which of these sentences are correct, and which are incorrect?
- Mr X has had a colostomy since 2018.
- Please remind Ms X that a breast screening is a free service for eligible patients
- She may benefit from a physiotherapy, to help her recover more quickly.
- Mr X has been advised that surgery is the best option to manage her condition.
- Mr X was admitted to hospital for the kidney dialysis on 4th September 2020.
- Angiogram revealed restricted blood flow to the heart.