Student or Learner
I trembled with (the) fear of heights.
Is the "the" optional above?
Thank you so much.
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.
***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. )
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.
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
thefear of waking the guards.
2. I had to run away for
thefear that he might one day kill me.
Do you agree with me on it?