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The following sentence is from a grammar book. I have questions about the two 'a's in pink.
Penny got a very sunburnt back on the first day, so she has had to wear a T-shirt sin then.
1. If the sentence is talking about Penny's back, why is it using 'a' to refer to a definite thing?
2. I assume, Penny must be changing her T-shirt everyday. That means here the word 'T-shirt' should be used in a general sense, without any article.
Please give your opinions. Thanks,
Pope of the Dictionary.com Forum
Thanks. But I don't understand your answers. It is very crutial for me to have clear understading of this. This is what I think.
1. Penny has only one back, and the sentence is talking about that unique thing.
2. We can use the with a singular countable noun to talk about the general features or characteristics of a class of things or people rather than one specific thing or person. Therefore, I think, the sentence should have been something like the following.
So she has had to wear T-shirts / The T-shirt since then.
I understand your confusion. Perhaps this will help:
Penny got a very sunburnt back on the first day
Penny caught a severe cold on the first day.
Penny found a pretty shell on the beach.
Each of these sentences is telling us something about Penny (i.e., Penny is the subject).
What did Penny get on the first day? A sunburnt back.
There are many sunburnt backs, and Penny got one of them.
What did Penny catch on the first day? A severe cold.
There are many severe colds, and Penny caught one of them.
What did Penny find on the beach? A pretty shell.
There are many pretty shells on the beach, and Penny found one of them.
You can see that sunburnt backs, severe colds, and pretty shells aren't unique to Penny. She just happens to get/catch/find one of them.
As you know, the first reference to a countable noun is preceded by an indefinite article.
I hope this explanation doesn't further muddy the water for you.
Last edited by JCrawf; 29-Oct-2006 at 08:27. Reason: Clarification