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  1. #1
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    Default why no indefinite article?

    Howdy,

    Why isn't there an "a" before "man" in the following sentence?

    She imagined the "hideous phantasm of man"

    Thx!
    Last edited by forum_mail; 16-Feb-2009 at 13:58.

  2. #2
    Charlie Bernstein is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: why no indefinite article?

    Quote Originally Posted by forum_mail View Post
    Howdy,

    Why isn't there an "a" before "man" in the following sentence?

    She imagined the "hideous phantasm of man"

    Thx!
    Good question.

    It means "man" as a species: Man walks on two legs. How many times has man walked on the moon?

    Many English editors, teachers, and grammarians consider "man" old-fashioned. They prefer gender-neutral language: The hideous phantasm of humans.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: why no indefinite article?

    thank you, understood.

    but how come here there's no indefinite article?

    He loses friend, brother, and wife

    best wishes

  4. #4
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    Default Re: why no indefinite article?

    Quote Originally Posted by forum_mail View Post
    thank you, understood.

    but how come here there's no indefinite article?

    He loses friend, brother, and wife

    best wishes
    The simple answer is, there should be an indefinite article.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: why no indefinite article?

    but... the sentence comes from a book written by a group of people dealing with literature... so I'd not expect them to make such a mistake (?)

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    Charlie Bernstein is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: why no indefinite article?

    Quote Originally Posted by forum_mail View Post
    but... the sentence comes from a book written by a group of people dealing with literature... so I'd not expect them to make such a mistake (?)
    Right. Again, if it's about man as the species, there is no article. We only use an article to talk about a man in the sense of a person.

    As a species: It was man's downfall. = It was humanity's downfall.

    As a person: A man fell down. = A person fell down.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: why no indefinite article?

    Disclaimer: I'm not a teacher.

    "Man" as used in "hideous phantasm of man" is a non-count noun. In English, non-count nouns don't require determiners (see http://www.usingenglish.com/glossary/determiner.html for a definition of a determiner) and can't be specified by the indefinite article.

    As for the sentence He loses friend, brother, and wife, without seeing the entire text it's hard to say why the author left out the articles. This would have to be considered poetic language--in other words, nonstandard. Normally, singular count nouns (including "friend", "brother", and "wife") require some kind of determiner.

  8. #8
    Charlie Bernstein is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: why no indefinite article?

    Quote Originally Posted by particleman View Post
    As for the sentence He loses friend, brother, and wife, without seeing the entire text it's hard to say why the author left out the articles.
    Also right. It could also be part of a synopsis, a summary of a longer text. In that case, it's common or even customary to shorten the text by taking out articles.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: why no indefinite article?

    He loses friend, brother, and wife

    This is the standard of English you might hear when 'educated' people have a normal dinner party conversation; when the conversation is much more an exchange of intellectual ideas and anecdotes, rather than the latest happenings in a soap, or local gossip.

    Say a man is accused and convicted of molesting the daughter of a friend, and the case is being discussed. One person might ask, "Which is worse punishment, I wonder: his prison sentence, or losing friend, brother, and wife." meaning friends, family, and his wife have disassociated themselves from him - that he has alienated himself from all. It is not referring just to 'the friend with the daughter', or just 'a friend' = a man he regarded as a friend (whose daughter it was)". It is referring to sections of his community: all those regarded as friends; and similarly,'brother' refers to the bonds of kinship and to all blood-related kin.
    Last edited by David L.; 19-Feb-2009 at 03:25.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: why no indefinite article?

    As for the sentence He loses friend, brother, and wife, without seeing the entire text it's hard to say why the author left out the articles. This would have to be considered poetic language--in other words, nonstandard.Quote:
    Originally Posted by particleman



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