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  1. #1
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    "the" questions - question 1

    Why the hell (sorry, but I'm so annoyed with "the vs a" stuff that I can't restrain myself) in the following sentence there's "the" instead of "a" ?

    /The ballad is a narrative-lyric form in that the story is presented in strophes... blah blah blah.../

    I don't get it. There should be "a" instead of "the", I guess. This sentence opens one of many papers I'm getting through and everytime I get confused by some sort of "the vs a" problem :/

    help needed...

    best,

  2. #2
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Re: "the" questions - question 1

    Hello FM

    The first "the" signifies a general statement about the class of things called "ballads". Cf.

    1. The cat is a furry quadruped with some very strange habits.

    i.e. cats in general are furry quadrupeds, etc.

    The second "the" signifies "something that may easily be inferred from the context": "story" is already implied in "narrative".

    (That said, the indefinite article would have sounded ok in both positions.)

    MrP

  3. #3
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    Re: "the" questions - question 1

    Hi there! Thanks for your reply.

    But as far as I know, "the" is not used in order to show that the whole class of things have the same qualities or characteristics. I mean, I was taught that if one wants to say something general, let's say, about cats, then one should say something like :

    A cat is a four legged animal... blah blah blah... or
    Cats are four legged animals... and so on and so forth,

    and not something like "The cat is... etc. etc." because "the" implies that both a (or the?) speaker and a (the?) recipient know which cat they're talking about.

    I'm utterly confused now...

  4. #4
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Re: "the" questions - question 1

    Hello FM

    In fact, it's fine to use "the" in this way. You'll find some examples of "The lion is a" here, for instance:

    Examples

    But it's also fine to say e.g.

    1. A lion is a magnificent animal with a mane.
    2. Lions are lazy, foul-smelling, and prone to arthritis.

    See you,
    MrP

  5. #5
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    Re: "the" questions - question 1

    hmm... I don't feel very comfortable with those examples... I mean, I've never seen anything like using the to talk about things in general. I haven't spotted such a rule in grammar books as well...

  6. #6
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    Smile Re: "the" questions - question 1

    Hi Forum_mail!

    There is reference to this point in "Advanced grammar in Use" by Martin Hewings (unit 60 in the sixth edition).

    The main idea for generalisations is the following:

    1. ZERO ARTICLE is for plural and uncountable nouns
    I can smell smoke.
    Always check you shoes for spiders.

    2. THE ARTICLE is for singular countable nouns
    The novel is the most popular form of fiction writing.

    Best regards,
    Anna

  7. #7
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    Re: "the" questions - question 1

    Thanks for that!

    Then if I say "A nover is the most popular..." it's wrong ?

    and by the way :

    1/ Do we say "In a garden" or "In the garden" ? Or both are correct ?

    2/ Can I say "a newspaper" ? because I've seen lots of examples with "the newspaper" but hardly any with "a"

    3/ Is it ok to say "a little rice" or "a little cheese" ?

    best wishes,

  8. #8
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    Smile Re: "the" questions - question 1

    Both are right "The novel is the most..." and "A nover is the most popular..."


  9. #9
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    Re: "the" questions - question 1

    okie dookie :D

    what about the rest :) ?

  10. #10
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    Re: "the" questions - question 1

    "Garden" and "newspaper" are both countable nouns and it seems to me that we can use them with "a" (when you mention it first time or want to show that it's a single object) and "the" (when the object was mentioned before)

    "a little rice" and "a little cheese" are grammatically correct. But I would use "a bit of rice (cheese)" in informal conversation.

    P.S. about novels
    If you speak about it in general so you should say
    "Novel is the most..."
    or
    "The novel is the most...."

    But if you start to speak about a particular novel
    "A novel is the most..." would be correct



    Anna

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