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Thread: a or the?

  1. #1
    nado92 is offline Member
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    a or the?

    . . ............ computer has changed the way we work.
    a- A b- Thec-No article d-An


    I will choose The ...Am I right?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Barb_D's Avatar
    Barb_D is offline Moderator
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    Re: a or the?

    Yes.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  3. #3
    hanky is offline Key Member
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    Re: a or the?

    I am not a teacher nor English native speaker.

    If "we" means a particular group of people, I would agree with Barb.

    However, I think here "we" means people or all of us. Thus I suppose neither "a" nor "the" could be used since we are talking about "things in general". I go with:

    Computer has changed the way we work.

  4. #4
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    Re: a or the?

    Quote Originally Posted by hanky View Post
    I am not a teacher nor English native speaker.

    If "we" means a particular group of people, I would agree with Barb.

    However, I think here "we" means people or all of us. Thus I suppose neither "a" nor "the" could be used since we are talking about "things in general". I go with:

    Computer has changed the way we work.
    The computer has changed the way we work OR computers have changed the way we work.

  5. #5
    Barb_D's Avatar
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    Re: a or the?

    Quote Originally Posted by hanky View Post
    I am not a teacher nor English native speaker.

    If "we" means a particular group of people, I would agree with Barb.

    However, I think here "we" means people or all of us. Thus I suppose neither "a" nor "the" could be used since we are talking about "things in general". I go with:

    Computer has changed the way we work.
    Hi Hanky,
    You need an article or you need the plural. Since the test started with the singular, then you need an article.

    In fact, we do use "The" for things in general, as we do in "The lion is called the king of the jungle" or "The family is the most important social unit in all humanity."

    It's a bit backwards from how we usually think of it, but in this case, if we had said "A computer" we'd be thinking about a specific computer, just not one that we've talked about before. By saying "The computer" we mean "The idea of computers."
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  6. #6
    kfredson is offline Senior Member
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    Re: a or the?

    Quote Originally Posted by nado92 View Post
    . . ............ computer has changed the way we work.
    a- A b- Thec-No article d-An


    I will choose The ...Am I right?

    Thanks in advance.
    Yes, I would agree with "The." That would mean that the use of computers in general has changed the way we work. If you used "A" you would be pointing to one particular computer which has accomplished this.

    "A computer [that is, the one we have had in our little office] has managed to change the way our little group of people has been doing its work."

    We might have said this back in the 1980s when computers were being introduced to the work place, but it would be unusual to say it now, unless you were in a little village somewhere where the computer was a recent arrival.

  7. #7
    hanky is offline Key Member
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    Re: a or the?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    Hi Hanky,
    You need an article or you need the plural. Since the test started with the singular, then you need an article.

    In fact, we do use "The" for things in general, as we do in "The lion is called the king of the jungle" or "The family is the most important social unit in all humanity."

    It's a bit backwards from how we usually think of it, but in this case, if we had said "A computer" we'd be thinking about a specific computer, just not one that we've talked about before. By saying "The computer" we mean "The idea of computers."
    Hi Barb,
    Thanks for the post. English is really confusing! I have learned that for things in general we don't use article. You said that it's maybe not the case, so what's the rule?

    BTW: Lions don't live in the jungle, do they?

  8. #8
    kfredson is offline Senior Member
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    Re: a or the?

    Quote Originally Posted by hanky View Post
    Hi Barb,
    Thanks for the post. English is really confusing! I have learned that for things in general we don't use article. You said that it's maybe not the case, so what's the rule?

    BTW: Lions don't live in the jungle, do they?
    You have raised a very big issue here. I look forward to seeing how Barb explains it!

    In the meantime, I would say that things that are, well, things (objects in space) require an article when in the singular: the table, the house, the lion, the asteroid.

    However, concepts often do not: love, compassion, education, etc. There are also some phenomena which do not: lightning, thunder, rainfall, etc.

    When referring to a particular instance of a phenomenon you would, however, need the article.
    Hence, "Thunder can often be heard for many miles."
    BUT
    "The thunder last night shook us out of our beds."

    But I, too, would like more concrete rules about all this.

  9. #9
    mmasny is offline Key Member
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    Re: a or the?

    How about this example then:

    He has revealed the nature of man.

  10. #10
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    Re: a or the?

    I'm surprised by the native-speakers' answers. I'd say "computers" or no article. Do you the native-speakers put the definite article to make it plural? Otherwise, it'll be very confusing for me because I really don't get how to infer that "the computer" means "The idea of computers." as Barb suggested.

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