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  1. #1
    kayetan is offline Newbie
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    question about articles

    Let's assume that I describe a room to a person who doesn't see it.
    1. If I say
    "There's a mirror on the wall next to the sofa"
    does it necessary mean that there is only one sofa in the room?
    2. If I say
    "There's a computer next to a fax machine"
    does it necessary mean that there is more than one fax machine in the room?
    I've taken these sentences from my student's book. There is one fax machine and one sofa in the picture of the room. So why different articles are used?

  2. #2
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
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    Re: question about articles

    If there is only one of each, it should be 'the' in both cases.

  3. #3
    engee30's Avatar
    engee30 is offline Key Member
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    Cool Re: question about articles

    Quote Originally Posted by kayetan View Post
    1. If I say
    "There's a mirror on the wall next to the sofa"
    does it necessary mean that there is only one sofa in the room?
    That could also mean that, in the room, there are more sofas than just one:

    There's a mirror on the wall next to the sofa (I was talking about).

    And there could possibly be only one mirror in the room (even if mirror is preceded by a).

  4. #4
    kayetan is offline Newbie
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    Re: question about articles

    Quote Originally Posted by engee30 View Post
    That could also mean that, in the room, there are more sofas than just one:

    There's a mirror on the wall next to the sofa (I was talking about).

    And there could possibly be only one mirror in the room (even if mirror is preceded by a).
    Thank you for your answers.
    I would like to specify that 'sofa' wasn't mentioned before. In the sentence above it is mentioned for the first time in, let say, hypothetical talk on the phone with a native speaker. I would like to know if the native speaker will draw from this 'the' the conclusion that there is only one sofa in the room.

    If I understood you correctly, using 'a' in the second question doesn't exclude the sitiuation that there is only one fax machine in the room.
    Am I right?

    I was wondering on an inconsistent use of articles in the situation I presented: the same picture, the same exercise, the same structure of a sentence and different articles.

  5. #5
    pyoung is offline Senior Member
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    Re: question about articles

    Dear Kateyan:

    What an interesting question!

    "There's a mirror on the wall next to the sofa." This sentence would imply that there is only one sofa, especially in the context you describe.

    "There's a computer next to a fax machine." This sentence could mean that there are multiple fax machines in the room, but apparently it doesn't in your example.

    What springs to my mind is that these sentences say something about how the speaker believes a room should be. The speaker finds it normal that there is a sofa. It's 'the' sofa that belongs in the room. However, when the speaker says, 'There's a computer next to a fax machine in the room,' s/he could mean that a computer and a fax machine are not things one would expect to find in the room; they are unfamiliar, or, at least, less personal objects
    In the two sentences, 'the' can be signifying 'the familiar' and 'a' could be signifying 'an unfamiliar or unexpected object'.

    Just some thoughts.

    Best wishes,

    Petra

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