Results 1 to 7 of 7
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
      • Home Country:
      • China
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Apr 2010
    • Posts: 425
    #1

    optional "the"

    I trembled with (the) fear of heights.

    Is the "the" optional above?

    Thank you so much.

  1. apbl's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Italy

    • Join Date: Oct 2010
    • Posts: 77
    #2

    Re: optional "the"

    Quote Originally Posted by panicmonger View Post
    I trembled with (the) fear of heights.

    Is the "the" optional above?

    Thank you so much.
    Your example gives the impression of a very specific set of circumstances. If you remove the article the reult is a very general sounding sentence. You can remove the article in a general sentence like "Fear of heights is a common problem", but your example is too specific to do that. Having said that, the article doesn't sound very good in this sentence in any case and should perhaps be replaced by "my" which makes the sentence far more personal. You could even invert the sentence and say, "My fear of heights made me tremble", thus avoiding the article altogether.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
      • Home Country:
      • China
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Apr 2010
    • Posts: 425
    #3

    Re: optional "the"

    Quote Originally Posted by apbl View Post
    Your example gives the impression of a very specific set of circumstances. If you remove the article the reult is a very general sounding sentence. You can remove the article in a general sentence like "Fear of heights is a common problem", but your example is too specific to do that. Having said that, the article doesn't sound very good in this sentence in any case and should perhaps be replaced by "my" which makes the sentence far more personal. You could even invert the sentence and say, "My fear of heights made me tremble", thus avoiding the article altogether.

    For me, the use of the article "the" with abstract nouns is the most difficult to grasp.

    These I can understand:
    1. I have a fear of heights. (an instance of fear exclusive to me)

    2. Fear of heights is a common problem. (still general fear of heights)

    3. I trembled with the fears of heights (the plural form of fear make "the" necessary because the interest here is in the type of fear)

    However, if the fear is uncountable, the demarcation between the general and the specific reference is obscure. Just like:

    4. I trembled with (the) fear of heights.

    Could you tell me the reason why the impression is of a very specific set of circumstances in the last example?

    Thank you very much....
    Please feel free to comment...
    Last edited by panicmonger; 13-Oct-2010 at 17:46.

  2. euncu's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Turkish
      • Home Country:
      • Turkey
      • Current Location:
      • Turkey

    • Join Date: Aug 2009
    • Posts: 1,314
    #4

    Re: optional "the"

    ***neither a teacher nor a native-speaker***


    What about putting "the" before "heights" for what you fear is the heights you are about to climb or before you. ( This is what I infer from your sentence since you say you trembled. )

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
      • Home Country:
      • China
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Apr 2010
    • Posts: 425
    #5

    Re: optional "the"

    Quote Originally Posted by euncu View Post
    ***neither a teacher nor a native-speaker***


    What about putting "the" before "heights" for what you fear is the heights you are about to climb or before you. ( This is what I infer from your sentence since you say you trembled. )
    Which one do you mean
    I trembled with the fear of the heights.
    Or
    I trembled with fear of the heights.

    Which one would you choose?
    Thank you.

  3. apbl's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Italy

    • Join Date: Oct 2010
    • Posts: 77
    #6

    Re: optional "the"

    It's getting quite complicated now, isn't it?

    First of all I'm not at all convinced by this: "I trembled with the fears of heights." Fear of heights is a single uncountable concept. You can have many "fears" but only one "fear of heights".

    Now if you make the statement, "I trembled with fear", then it's correct to omit the article. Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that you do not tremble at the general concept of "fear of heights": you tremble if you actually have those heights before you.

    I think you need to bear in mind that you are starting this sentence with a past simple tense which gives the impression that you are actually telling a story and consequently one would probably not be expecting a 'general' meaning but a specific set of circumstances. I think this is important. The problem is therefore that you can't leave "the" out but it doesn't sound good when you put it in. This is really the reason why I would substitute "the" with "my" to avoid the problem and personalise even further the story-telling aspect.

    I hope that helps although it may not be a very "academic" answer.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
      • Home Country:
      • China
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Apr 2010
    • Posts: 425
    #7

    Re: optional "the"

    Quote Originally Posted by apbl View Post
    It's getting quite complicated now, isn't it?
    I hope that helps although it may not be a very "academic" answer.

    It is very complicated.... for me, but after reading your answer, I have a better understanding. Thank you, apbl.

    By rights, the following specific fears in a story-telling context should be preceded with "the", but since they (for fear of/that) are idioms, we just have to follow what they are.

    1. We spoke quietly for the fear of waking the guards.

    2. I had to run away for the fear that he might one day kill me.

    Do you agree with me on it?

Similar Threads

  1. [Grammar] Optional "the"
    By Snappy in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 15-Feb-2010, 20:18
  2. [Vocabulary] How do you pronounce "Cotton", "Button", "Britain", "Manhattan"...
    By Williamyh in forum Pronunciation and Phonetics
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 24-Dec-2009, 09:36
  3. "hundreds", "fives", "ones", "Tens", "20s"
    By IMPSX-UE in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 07-Mar-2009, 19:54
  4. Replies: 2
    Last Post: 08-Sep-2008, 08:27
  5. confusing words "expressed" or "express" and "named" or"names"
    By Dawood Usmani in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 26-Oct-2007, 19:33

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •