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  1. keannu's Avatar
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    #1

    chair is soft

    These all make sense,
    A chair is soft/The chair is soft/Chairs are soft

    But why doesn't "Chair is soft" make sense?
    For Koreans, Japanese, Chinese who use nouns without indefinite articles, this is a really challenging issue. They can't understand why article-less nouns don't make sense while they use them all the time.

    I once asked an American about this and he said "It's because it sounds like a barbarians' language", and my temporary conclusion is it sounds like a concept not an actual thing, but Koreans/Japanese/Chinese say article-less nouns without considering concept or an actual thing.

    I need your comprehensible explanation. Thank you in advance.

  2. SlickVic9000's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: chair is soft

    (Not a Teacher)

    I'm not sure how to explain it, compadre. "Chair is soft" just sounds broken and inept to me. And yet, sometimes we omit articles in speech occasionally for the sake of brevity (like in news headlines) and it doesn't bother us at all.
    Last edited by SlickVic9000; 20-Jan-2012 at 04:44.

  3. keannu's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: chair is soft

    Quote Originally Posted by SlickVic9000 View Post
    (Not a Teacher)

    I'm not sure how to explain it, compadre. "Chair is soft" just sounds broken and inept to me. And yet, sometimes we omit articles in speech occasionally for the sake of brevity (like in news headlines) and it doesn't bother us at all.
    Other than brevity, in normal usages, what kind of impression does it give you more? Some abstract concept or imperfect image?

  4. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: chair is soft

    There is no point in asking "why" things happen in any language. The simple fact is that countable nouns in English require an article if they are in the singular to be grammatical correct.

    A cheetah can purr. -- Any cheetah
    The cheetah can purr. -- The category of animals knows as "cheetah"
    Cheetahs can purr. -- All cheetahs
    Cheetah can purr -- Ungrammatical, unless you have a kitty cat named "Cheetah" and it's a proper noun.

    I object to your American's friend categorization as "barbarian" but "ungrammatical" would be accurate.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  5. shannico's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: chair is soft

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    These all make sense,
    A chair is soft/The chair is soft/Chairs are soft

    But why doesn't "Chair is soft" make sense?
    For Koreans, Japanese, Chinese who use nouns without indefinite articles, this is a really challenging issue. They can't understand why article-less nouns don't make sense while they use them all the time.

    I once asked an American about this and he said "It's because it sounds like a barbarians' language", and my temporary conclusion is it sounds like a concept not an actual thing, but Koreans/Japanese/Chinese say article-less nouns without considering concept or an actual thing.

    I need your comprehensible explanation. Thank you in advance.
    I'd use the chair is comfortable as opposed to soft though.

  6. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: chair is soft

    I suggest "A chair is soft" (or comfortable, it doesn't matter) is grammatically okay, but semantically nonsense. Not all chairs are soft. It is not a description of a chair in general.

    If you mean a specific chair, you'd say "This/That/The chair is soft."

    If you are pointing around to a suite full of furniture, you might say "One of these chairs is soft" or "These chairs are soft."

    I am unable to think of a time when a native speaker would say "A chair is soft" in a meaningful context.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  7. shannico's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: chair is soft

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    I suggest "A chair is soft" (or comfortable, it doesn't matter) is grammatically okay, but semantically nonsense. Not all chairs are soft. It is not a description of a chair in general.

    If you mean a specific chair, you'd say "This/That/The chair is soft."

    If you are pointing around to a suite full of furniture, you might say "One of these chairs is soft" or "These chairs are soft."

    I am unable to think of a time when a native speaker would say "A chair is soft" in a meaningful context.
    I meant semantically, I wouldn't say a/the/this or that chair is soft but I would replace soft with comfortable.
    I find it frustrating at times how grammar books focus on the structure of a sentence regardless of its meaning.

  8. keannu's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: chair is soft

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    There is no point in asking "why" things happen in any language. The simple fact is that countable nouns in English require an article if they are in the singular to be grammatical correct.

    A cheetah can purr. -- Any cheetah
    The cheetah can purr. -- The category of animals knows as "cheetah"
    Cheetahs can purr. -- All cheetahs
    Cheetah can purr -- Ungrammatical, unless you have a kitty cat named "Cheetah" and it's a proper noun.

    I object to your American's friend categorization as "barbarian" but "ungrammatical" would be accurate.
    I expected some awkward feeling in native speakers' minds when they hear "chair is soft", I mean, some feeling-wise reluctance for that, but if it's a grammar-wise problem, there seems to be no way to explain to Korean students except the grammar rules. Don't get me wrong. I just imagined native speakers have a feeling-wise reason.

  9. Raymott's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: chair is soft

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    I expected some awkward feeling in native speakers' minds when they hear "chair is soft", I mean, some feeling-wise reluctance for that, but if it's a grammar-wise problem, there seems to be no way to explain to Korean students except the grammar rules. Don't get me wrong. I just imagined native speakers have a feeling-wise reason.
    There is a feeling-wise reason. If someone said "Chair is soft", in the lack of a very specific context, such as just having sat down, you'd think, "What chair is soft? What are you talking about?" You'd wonder if you misheard a sentence such as "Cheese is soft", for example, or something else. You might feel concerned that the speaker has had a stroke and is starting to garble their words. You might have all sorts of reactions.
    I imagine the feeling would be the same if a Korean person said something ungrammatical in Korean for no obvious reason.

  10. keannu's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: chair is soft

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    There is a feeling-wise reason. If someone said "Chair is soft", in the lack of a very specific context, such as just having sat down, you'd think, "What chair is soft? What are you talking about?" You'd wonder if you misheard a sentence such as "Cheese is soft", for example, or something else. You might feel concerned that the speaker has had a stroke and is starting to garble their words. You might have all sorts of reactions.
    I imagine the feeling would be the same if a Korean person said something ungrammatical in Korean for no obvious reason.
    It's hard to explain the difference between Korean/Japanese/Chinese,etc and English in terms of articles, especially in indefinite article. I'm not telling you which is better or worse but just telling you the difference between those similar languages and English.

    For example, for an unspecific noun, Korean/Japanese/Chinese use a zero article noun like "If you go to the corner, there is woman" And this is 99 percent more common in Korean/Chinese/Japanese than using indefinitel articles. Even without an article, we understand there is a woman in there, and if you used "There is a woman" in Korean/Japanese/Chinese, they would take it very weird. Except for very few special cases, we always use zero article nouns.
    And even for nouns in general, we say zero article nouns like "Guy like beautiful woman".

    I'm not saying what is natural for Japanese/Koreanse/Japanese should be accepted by English speakers. I think probably it's the difference of being used to something. We are used to inferring a general concept or an unspecific noun even from zero article nouns, but English speakers don't seem to be used to such nouns. Also, English seems more logical in designating unspecific nouns with articles.
    They seem to perceive them as an imperfect noun that has no reality. This is what I want to know just to explain to almost every Korean or Japanese/Chinese who don't use "a/an" in their daily lives. And I'm not saying which is better or worse, it's just the problem of difference.
    Last edited by keannu; 21-Jan-2012 at 13:56.

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