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  1. zorank's Avatar
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    #1

    an instance where THE + A PLURAL NOUN would not mean all of them

    Hello,

    I am wondering whether there is a such example where the construct

    THE + PLURAL NOUN

    would not imply all members in the group discussed in a sentence.

    The reason why I am asking is the following example.

    Imagine a room, a table, and a bowl of apples.

    If I say to someone:

    "Please take the apples."

    I've been told (in a separate thread, can't link it) that the person would understand that he/she can take all apples. I am wondering whether there is a counter example.

    Is there a situation where if I would say so the person would automatically understnad that I am not offering all apples in the room?

    Regards

    Zoran

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: an instance where THE + A PLURAL NOUN would not mean all of them

    The simplest way is just to say, "Please take/have/help yourself to ...an apple/ a couple of apples.

  3. zorank's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: an instance where THE + A PLURAL NOUN would not mean all of them

    Many thanks for trying to help me out.

    I am asking in order to understand how to use the definite article with a plural noun.

    In a way, I would not like to sound rude in any way, your answer/suggestion is certainly helpful but it is not addressing what I would like to know. :) The example is probably not the optimal one but this is the example that I discussed before and I have some feeling for.
    Last edited by zorank; 30-Sep-2011 at 16:52.

  4. 5jj's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: an instance where THE + A PLURAL NOUN would not mean all of them

    Quote Originally Posted by zorank View Post
    Many thanks for trying to help me out. I am asking in order to understand how to use the definite article with a plural noun.
    In a way, I would not like to sound rude in any way, your answer/suggestion is certainly helpful but it is not addressing what I would like to know. :)
    It seems to me that what you would like to know is whether it is possible to utter a group of words that will normally be taken to mean one thing in such a way that they mean another. The answer is almost certainly 'yes', given a sufficiently convoluted context. However, in the situation you outlined, "Please take the apples" would normally be understood as an invitation to take all the apples. If that were not your intention, you would say, "Please take some apples",

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    #5

    Re: an instance where THE + A PLURAL NOUN would not mean all of them

    "The apples" are concrete apples which we distinguish from apples in general. If only some apples in the room or bowl are the apples, then the speaker is only inviting to take those particular apples. But yes, all of them.

  5. zorank's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: an instance where THE + A PLURAL NOUN would not mean all of them

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    It seems to me that what you would like to know is whether it is possible to utter a group of words that will normally be taken to mean one thing in such a way that they mean another. The answer is almost certainly 'yes', given a sufficiently convoluted context. However, in the situation you outlined, "Please take the apples" would normally be understood as an invitation to take all the apples. If that were not your intention, you would say, "Please take some apples",
    Uhmps... I really blew it up, haven't I. The thing I would like to learn is whether there is an example where THE + PLURAL NOUN would mean a part of the group. I am not interested to learn how to offer apples, this was just an example, alas, completely inapropriate as it seems.

  6. zorank's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: an instance where THE + A PLURAL NOUN would not mean all of them

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    "The apples" are concrete apples which we distinguish from apples in general. If only some apples in the room or bowl are the apples, then the speaker is only inviting to take those particular apples. But yes, all of them.
    hmmm... interesting. What if there are two bowls in the room, one red one blue, both with apples?

    If I point at the red bowl and say

    "Please take the apples."

    that would mean not all apples in the room, right?

    Now, how would an English speaking person react if I would NOT point and say

    "Please take the apples."

    Would the person understand "all apples" or would the person reply

    "Excuse me, which apples do you mean?"

  7. 5jj's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: an instance where THE + A PLURAL NOUN would not mean all of them

    The definite article defines.

    Clearly, if you say, "Take the apples in the bowl", you are not offering any other apples in the room, but if you just say, "Take the apples", then you are not talking about part of a group.

  8. zorank's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: an instance where THE + A PLURAL NOUN would not mean all of them

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    The definite article defines.

    Clearly, if you say, "Take the apples in the bowl", you are not offering any other apples in the room, but if you just say, "Take the apples", then you are not talking about part of a group.
    Thank you. This was an important example. I think I start to understand. This example is actually an eye opener. You are saying something really important!

    The issue is about implicit knowledge that we share, isn't it? We are both in the room, and we are experiencing the situation we are talking about. This defines the scope of the full apple set.

    If I say "the apples" and nothing else the person I am speaking to will implictily assume the largest possible set of apples in the room (I did not know this, hope I am understanding it correctly).

    If I say "the apples + something that defines a subset of all apples in the room" then this would mean not all apples but the ones I have defined.

    Strange, but interesting, nevertheless. There is a great deal of physiology in all this actually. If I say "the apples" and nothing else then the person I am talking to would start thinking, "which apples he means, oh yea it is the, so I should know about them, well the only apples I can know about are these apples in the room, which other apples could he possible have in mind, I'll take them all".

    Many thanks again.

  9. zorank's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: an instance where THE + A PLURAL NOUN would not mean all of them

    Quote Originally Posted by zorank View Post
    hmmm... interesting. What if there are two bowls in the room, one red one blue, both with apples?

    If I point at the red bowl and say

    "Please take the apples."

    that would mean not all apples in the room, right?

    Now, how would an English speaking person react if I would NOT point and say

    "Please take the apples."

    Would the person understand "all apples" or would the person reply

    "Excuse me, which apples do you mean?"
    If I understand correctly fivedejon's post, the person would understnad that I am referring to all apples in the room...

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