Feeding a piece of the bread to the cows on Christmas Eve will ensure that there willbe lots of milk all year.
Is the sentence correct?
Would it also be correct to say "Feeding cows with a piece of the bread...."?
Do I have to use the definite article before the "cows"?
If you omit the definite article from "the cows", you will be talking about all the cows in the world, or cows in general. If you use the definite article, we understand that you mean a specific group of cows - "these cows" or "my cows", for example.
You don't need the definite article in "piece of the bread" (unless you're talking about a specific type (or loaf) of bread).
Feeding a piece of bread to cows on Christmas Eve will ensure that there will be lots of milk all year -- a general statement about feeding any piece of bread to any cows.
Feeding a piece of bread to the cows on Christmas Eve will ensure that there will be lots of milk all year -- statement implies that we know which cows you're talking about.
Feeding a piece of the bread to the cows on Christmas Eve will ensure that there will be lots of milk all year -- implies that we know which bread you're talking about. And which cows.
As a proverb or saying, the version without any definite article is best. If you use the definite article, you would also need to provide a context for the statement.
Thank you for the explanation...
Originally Posted by boothling
Actually, I've taken the sentence from here: Czech Christmas Customs
(Have a look at "Vánočka (Christmas bread)")
And I don't understand why "the" was used in front of the word "cows" as it is supposed to be "effective" for all cows generally...
"The cows is correct. It means the cows that belong to you.
Now that I've seen that the bread is a special kind, I think the sentence is better with the definite articles. I think it's because it's folklore. Referring to "the cows" (implying "your cows", as curmudgeon said) seems to make the statement more... um... local, for want of a better word.
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