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Thread: use of "the"

  1. #1
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    Talking use of "the"

    When using articles (my ear is correct, but explaining to NNSs) I need help.
    "She lectures at Oxford University." doesn't require "the" as there is only one. If I used "the Oxford Universit" that would imply there are others? Correct?
    So why do I say "I went and visited the Statue of Liberty."? OR "I have a vacation house in the Hawaiian Islands."? There is only one set of Hawaiian Islands.
    And my final weird one..."I climbed Everest" Or "I climbed Mt. Everest." BUT when I say "I climbed the Matterhorn." Why not just "Matterhorn" or "Mt. Matterhorn"?
    I love my students BUT they are kicking my butt in the best way
    Life IS Good
    Thank you
    Christopher
    Reno, NV

  2. #2
    colloquium is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: use of "the"

    Quote Originally Posted by nvlcsw View Post
    When using articles (my ear is correct, but explaining to NNSs) I need help.
    "She lectures at Oxford University." doesn't require "the" as there is only one. If I used "the Oxford Universit" that would imply there are others? Correct?

    So why do I say "I went and visited the Statue of Liberty."? OR "I have a vacation house in the Hawaiian Islands."? There is only one set of Hawaiian Islands.

    Yes, there is only one statue of liberty and one set of Hawaiian islands, and this is why the is used, it is the definate article: it's intended effect is to let the listener know that he/she knows of the referent. The indefinate A/An lets the listener know that the referent is new.

    Consider

    We went to Paris and saw a wonderful Statue; but I cannot remember where or what it is called.
    (indefinate - the listener doesn't know of this particular statue)

    in contrast to

    We went to New York and saw the statue of liberty. (Definate - the listener does - or at least the speaker assumes the listener does know of this particular statue).

    By saying "I visited a statue of liberty today", you are implying that there is more than one statue of liberty ("I visited a Statue of Liberty, just one of them"). This is of course nonsensical, there is only (for now at least) one Statue of Liberty. It should be a definate reference because you are referring to a specific thing. The same thing goes for "the hawaiian islands" (when they are referred to as a group). You cannot visit these Hawaiian islands, but not those ones - there is only one set of Hawaiian islands.

    And my final weird one..."I climbed Everest" Or "I climbed Mt. Everest." BUT when I say "I climbed the Matterhorn." Why not just "Matterhorn" or "Mt. Matterhorn"?

    Most mountain names don't take the definate article, but some do. Not a great explanation but pretty much a summary of the problem. Mountain ranges on the other hand frequently take a def. article.

    However I am sure you can call it Mt.Matterhorn; there's nothing wrong or strange about doing so, it's just more commonly known as the matterhorn in English.


    I love my students BUT they are kicking my butt in the best way
    Life IS Good
    Thank you
    Christopher
    Reno, NV
    ....
    Last edited by colloquium; 27-Nov-2008 at 21:17.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: use of "the"

    Thank you colloquium !
    This is exactly the type of detailed answer I need (for now). I look forward to being a resource to the forum (one-day).
    Life IS Goodł
    Christopher

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