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  1. #1
    tom3m is offline Senior Member
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    Default Introduction of Swan's Practical English Usage (PEU) - article THE

    Yesterday, I got a book from Michael Swan - PEU. In the introduction of the book, the first sentence goes:

    English, like all languages, is full of problems for the foreign learner.

    I do not understand, why there is the definite article used, when we are speaking about foreign learners in general. I would use indefinite 'a' (which would obviously be a mistake) because we are refering to the foreign learner for the first time and we are not speaking about one particular foreign learner. Can you clarify the usage of the definite article?
    Last edited by tom3m; 26-Jul-2012 at 12:20. Reason: typo

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Introduction of Swan's Practical English Usage (PEU) - article THE

    You could use a. The definite article suggests we're talking about foreign learners as a class- all of them.

  3. #3
    tom3m is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Introduction of Swan's Practical English Usage (PEU) - article THE

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    You could use a. The definite article suggests we're talking about foreign learners as a class- all of them.
    Can I liken it to the rule we learnt about animals? THE giraffe is the tallest of all animals. = referring to the giraffe as a species
    Last edited by tom3m; 26-Jul-2012 at 19:48. Reason: 'r' forgotten in the progressive - referRing

  4. #4
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    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Introduction of Swan's Practical English Usage (PEU) - article THE

    Quote Originally Posted by tom3m View Post
    Can I liken it to the rule we learnt about animals? THE giraffe is the tallest of all animals. = refering to the giraffe as a species
    Yes, exactly.

  5. #5
    TomUK is offline Member
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    Default Re: Introduction of Swan's Practical English Usage (PEU) - article THE

    Not a teacher!

    Books are very demanding. They want to be opened and read. I have got one called 'Practical English Usage'. Just for the sheer fun of it I opened it and looked in the index (in the back of the book) for the word 'the'. There are a couple of entries. I started reading through them and Bob's your uncle! I found: "68 articles (8): talking in general - 2 generalisations with singular countable nouns". I believe that paragraph answers your original question.

    TomUK

  6. #6
    Winwin2011 is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Introduction of Swan's Practical English Usage (PEU) - article THE

    Quote Originally Posted by TomUK View Post
    Not a teacher!

    Books are very demanding. They want to be opened and read. I have got one called 'Practical English Usage'. Just for the sheer fun of it I opened it and looked in the index (in the back of the book) for the word 'the'. There are a couple of entries. I started reading through them and Bob's your uncle! I found: "68 articles (8): talking in general - 2 generalisations with singular countable nouns". I believe that paragraph answers your original question.

    TomUK
    Not a teacher

    Michael Swan, 68 articles (8): talking in general

    Sometimes we talk about things in general by using the with a singular countable noun.

    Schools should concentrate more on the child and less on exams.
    Last edited by Winwin2011; 27-Jul-2012 at 14:33.

  7. #7
    tom3m is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Introduction of Swan's Practical English Usage (PEU) - article THE

    Quote Originally Posted by TomUK View Post
    Not a teacher!

    Books are very demanding. They want to be opened and read. I have got one called 'Practical English Usage'. Just for the sheer fun of it I opened it and looked in the index (in the back of the book) for the word 'the'. There are a couple of entries. I started reading through them and Bob's your uncle! I found: "68 articles (8): talking in general - 2 generalisations with singular countable nouns". I believe that paragraph answers your original question.

    TomUK
    Online forums are very demanding as well. They want threads to be written and they usually want some people to answer them. I know one on www.usingenglish.com. If there is coincindentally a thing we want to know they can even replace some books. Believe me that I sometimes go through the book without really intending to find anything particular. In the time of starting the thread, I thought it would be quicker, faster and easier for me to find what how this usage of the article works. There are many threads about grammar and I believe that many people posting these threads actually have some kind of grammar reference book where they can find the answer. If these people did not exist, there would not be any queries about grammar here at all. Metaphorically speaking, I am asking for a cure for lung cancer and you are telling me that cigarettes are very bad and that I shouldn't have smoked. You are not helping anyone, but what you succeeded in - you managed to annoy me by that. I do not think I asked for any kind of help about how to deal with the book. I know there is an index and I know where. I even know numbers to find the proper pages and entries. Maybe surprisingly, I have hands so I can also turn the pages. However, that does not mean that if I have the book, I am not going to use this great source of information, which this forum undoubtedly is.
    Last edited by tom3m; 27-Jul-2012 at 21:06.

  8. #8
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: Introduction of Swan's Practical English Usage (PEU) - article THE

    Quote Originally Posted by tom3m View Post
    Metaphorically speaking, I am asking for a cure for lung cancer and you are telling me that cigarettes are very bad and that I shouldn't have smoked. You are not helping anyone, but what you succeeded in - you managed to annoy me by that. I do not think I asked for some kind of help about how to deal with the book. I know there is an index and I know where. I even know numbers to find the proper pages and entries. Maybe surprisingly, I have hands so I can also turn the pages. However, that does not mean that if I have the book, I am not going to use this great source of information, which this forum undoubtedly is.
    Tom UK referred you to a paragraph in a book he knows you possess. I am at a loss to see how you don't find that helpful.

    Please try not to express your annoyance if a response does not come in the form that you think it ought to. All the people who respond here are volunteers, and freely give their own time to attempt to help. We have a saying in English - Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
    Please do not edit your question after it has received a response. Such editing can make the response hard for others to understand.


  9. #9
    tom3m is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Introduction of Swan's Practical English Usage (PEU) - article THE

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    Tom UK referred you to a paragraph in a book he knows you possess. I am at a loss to see how you don't find that helpful.

    Please try not to express your annoyance if a response does not come in the form that you think it ought to. All the people who respond here are volunteers, and freely give their own time to attempt to help. We have a saying in English - Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
    We have the same saying in the Czech Republic and I have always heeded it. I would have found TomUK's piece of writing helpful, if it had not been written like it actually was. It is possible that I did not get how he had meant it, but as far as I understood it (the first four sentences in particular) it has really seemed to me as provocation. If I wanted to find everything in the book I would not post any more threads here, but I simply don't want to. I am a human being and these tend to be lazy sometimes. Furthemore, they might want more concise answer than a book can offer. To summarize it, if he had told me where it is in the book, I would say: 'Thank you, I'll check it.' But the rest of his answer was undoubtedly provocative and I am quite sensitive to this. Even if the person does this voluntarily, they should not behave like that, in my opinion. The last point I want to make is that I have very great admiration of people devoting tons of their time responding to queries here.

  10. #10
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Introduction of Swan's Practical English Usage (PEU) - article THE

    Quote Originally Posted by tom3m View Post
    But the rest of his answer was undoubtedly provocative
    You apparently found it so. Many would not.
    and I am quite sensitive to this.
    Possibly a little over-sensitive.
    Even if the person does this voluntarily, they should not behave like that, in my opinion.
    We have moderators to police the forum. If you feel that somebody has written something inappropriate, you can PM them to sort things out. if the post is really offensive, you can report it by clicking on the triangle symbol at the bottom.

    Reacting in these ways helps keep the threads free of unplesantness.
    Last edited by 5jj; 27-Jul-2012 at 22:11.
    Please do not edit your question after it has received a response. Such editing can make the response hard for others to understand.


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