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  1. #1
    ChrisKim is offline Newbie
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    Red face Here is a question about 'The' ...

    Hello, I have a question for you. :))
    It's about the article, the.
    So, here I go.


    Qusetion )

    This passage below is from my book that I am studying now.

    Almost as soon as the potato was introduced into Europe, the people of Irland made it a staple of their daily diet. Historians have estimated, in fact, that at least half of the irish relied on potatoes for most of therir nutritional needs.

    My question is why they use 'the potato' in the passage instead of 'a potato' or 'potatoes' ?
    I know that 'the potato' in the passage means a general potato, not a specific potato,
    like you say, "I always listen to music at the end of the day", not 'a day'.

    However, I think using 'a potato' or 'potatoes' would sound more natural not to make readers confused to think like, "is this refering a specific potato?"

    And then, they refer 'potatoes' in the second sentence, which means, I guess,that there should be some reason that they use the same thing, which is potato, in different ways.

    Is there any subtle difference/nuance between 'the potato' and 'potatoes' or 'a potato' ?

    I'd like an detailed explanation from native speakers.

    Any comments will be appreciated ! :))

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is online now Moderator
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    Default Re: Here is a question about 'The' ...

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisKim View Post
    Hello, I have a question for you. :))
    It's about the article, the.
    So, here I go.


    Qusetion )

    This passage below is from my book that I am studying now.

    Almost as soon as the potato was introduced into Europe, the people of Irland made it a staple of their daily diet. Historians have estimated, in fact, that at least half of the irish relied on potatoes for most of therir nutritional needs.

    My question is why they use 'the potato' in the passage instead of 'a potato' or 'potatoes' ?
    I know that 'the potato' in the passage means a general potato, not a specific potato,
    like you say, "I always listen to music at the end of the day", not 'a day'.

    However, I think using 'a potato' or 'potatoes' would sound more natural not to make readers confused to think like, "is this refering a specific potato?"

    And then, they refer 'potatoes' in the second sentence, which means, I guess,that there should be some reason that they use the same thing, which is potato, in different ways.

    Is there any subtle difference/nuance between 'the potato' and 'potatoes' or 'a potato' ?

    I'd like an detailed explanation from native speakers.

    Any comments will be appreciated ! :))
    The writer could just as easily have started it with "Almost as soon as potatoes were introduced ..." and it would have meant the same thing. However, it is being used to describe "the food group - the potato" and it's entirely correct.
    As far as readers thinking that the writer was talking about one specific potato being introduced, remember that a certain amount of common sense is required when reading. How likely is it that someone will write about one single, individual potato being introduced into a country? Not at all likely. Therefore, it is entirely reasonable to assume that they are writing about the introduction of that food species/group.

    Would you be confused if you read "Prehistoric man invented the wheel"?
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  3. #3
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Here is a question about 'The' ...

    "Almost as soon as the potato was introduced into Europe, the people of Ireland made it a staple of their daily diet. Historians have estimated, in fact, that at least half of the Irish relied on potatoes for most of their nutritional needs."

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Here is a question about 'The' ...

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisKim View Post
    However, I think using 'a potato' or 'potatoes' would sound more natural not to make readers confused to think like, "is this refering a specific potato?"
    It's referring to a specific crop, not a specific potato.

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