Definite Article Diseases and Medical Conditions


Rule 8.7: Do not use the indefinite article or the definite article with the names of diseases and medical conditions.


Correct: My grandmother has arthritis.
Incorrect: My grandmother has an arthritis.
Incorrect: My grandmother has the arthritis.

Correct: Hypertension is called the silent killer.
Incorrect: A hypertension is called the silent killer.
Incorrect: The hypertension is called the silent killer.


Exception to Rule 8.7: Use the definite article with the measles, the mumps, the flu, and the creeps.


The mumps is a contagious disease.
Helen is at home with the flu.
Walking through cemeteries gives me the creeps.


Rule #8.8: Use the indefinite article, the definite article, or plural with the symptoms of diseases (fevers, rashes, sore throats, etc.) and injuries (broken arms, sprains, cuts, etc.)


Sore throats are one of the most common health complaints.
Wear sunscreen or you’ll get a sunburn.
Frank can’t play, he has a broken leg.


Extra! Symptoms and injuries follow the rules discussed in Generalizing in the Plural.


Specific: a, an, s, or the

1. I had a headache last night. The headache was terrible. (one specific headache)
2. Do you have a headache? (specific/now)
3. The headaches I get are worse than the ones you get. (specific: mine compared to yours)


General: s

1. Nobody likes headaches.
2. Headaches make people crazy.
3. Aspirin is used to treat headaches.

Exercise 6: Fill in the blanks with a, an, s, the, or Ø.