Children’s Use of English Articles in Intransitive and Transitive Sentences

Kum-Jeong Joo 1 ,
Author Information & Copyright
1Induk University
Corresponding Author: Assistant Professor, Department of Business English, Induk University, 12 Choansan-ro, Nowon-gu, Seoul, Korea, 01878, Korea, E-mail:

ⓒ Copyright 2022 Language Education Institute, Seoul National University. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Jun 22, 2022 ; Revised: Aug 23, 2022 ; Accepted: Aug 29, 2022

Published Online: Aug 31, 2022


This study presents new evidence that young children use English articles in an adult-like fashion, suggesting that children seem to know the function of English articles from the earliest observable ages. In adult language, indefinite NPs tend to appear in the subject position of intransitive verbs and the object position of transitive verbs. The study analyzes children’s early speech data for this pattern. The data consist of speech samples from six children, with mean lengths of utterances ranging from 2.0 to 3.1, and speech samples from six adults to provide a benchmark. The results demonstrate that in the data from both the adults and children, indefinite NPs with indefinite articles tend to appear in the subject position of intransitive verbs and the object position of transitive verbs, suggesting that very young children can use articles in similar patterns to those of adults.

Keywords: usage of articles; language acquisition; syntactic position



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