Many of us know what articles are and appreciate their importance in English language. We know that the three articles we have are a, an and the. As we have discussed in this class on a number of occasions, while a and an are used to mark indefinite or yet-to-be-known nouns, the is used with definite ones. Hence, the first two are called indefinite articles while the is the definite.
Of course we are so learned that we know a is used with a noun that begins with a consonant sound (sound, not just letter), while an goes with the one that begins with a vowel sound:
I saw a bird in the garden.
I saw an egg beside the nest.
I am sure it was laid by the white bird.
A UNESCO official and a European Union consultant will visit our company tomorrow. (Not An UNESCO official; not an European Union consultant…)
Despite the fact that we know so much, there are some grey areas we need to constantly address on how we handle articles. Imagine the error people commit when using what can be described as adverbial adjectives such as daily, weekly, monthly, hourly, annual and yearly – with a noun like basis. With the kind of impunity that makes some people kill innocent folk, say in a place like Benue or Zamfara State, with the security forces also rationalising the evil deed with culpable precision, a lot of speakers and writers throw out the a and an needed in the context. It is an area we need to watch.
People die on daily basis. (Wrong)
People die on a daily basis. (Correct)
The church holds the conference on annual basis. (Wrong)
The church holds the conference on an annual basis. (Correct)
The man cleans the engine on weekly basis. (Wrong)
The man cleans the engine on a weekly basis. (Correct).
On yearly basis, we are supposed to review the agreement. (Wrong)
On a yearly basis, we are supposed to review the agreement. (Correct)
Raising the alarm
We can link the above to some idioms whose structures, including articles, are fixed. There is usually the temptation to leave the articles out, but this would be incorrect.
In The PUNCH, our language controller, Mr. Seth Akintoye, is so particular about this that if you, for instance, leave out the in raise the alarm, he becomes so agitated that he feels like sending you to jail. He screams at you as if you are the owner of the snake that swallowed his N36m. Thank God, language monitors do not have the power to haul defaulters into prison.
On a more serious note, keep a and the intact in the following expressions:
The proprietor has raised alarm that some miscreants are threatening to invade the school. (Wrong)
The proprietor has raised the alarm that some miscreants are threatening to invade the school. (Correct)
Government has made U-turn over the proposal to establish cattle colonies across the country. (Wrong)
Government has made a U-turn over the plan to establish cattle colonies across the country. (Correct)
In the case of the last example, note that U-turn is written with the capital U: U-turn, not u-turn. The same thing applies to T-junction and T-shirt.
Back to the beginning
Back to a daily basis, an annual basis etc., however, you do not need the articles if you decide to reframe the sentences in such a way that daily, weekly, annually, etc are made to perform the function of adverbs, and no more adjectives:
He goes there a weekly. (Wrong)
He goes there weekly. (Correct)
They review the agreement an annually. (Wrong)
They review the agreement annually.
Buses leave this park an hourly. (Wrong)
Buses leave this park hourly. (Correct)