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  1. englishhobby's Avatar
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    #1

    THE newspaper and A letter

    Here's an extract from the script of the movie "Pride and Prejudice":

    It's very formal, in fact frigid, compared to the volatile Bennet household. Darcy is reading the newspaper; Caroline Bingley is reading a letter.

    Why is "newspaper" used with "the" while "letter" - with "a"? How could I explain it to students?

    The two people are both reading something (a newspaper and a letter). I suspect it's just what one should take for granted, but may be there is some logic to such use of the articles?
    If I were a native speaker of English, I would never shut up. :-)

  2. The Maltese Falcon's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: THE newspaper and A letter

    Maybe because there was only one local newspaper in the area. :)

  3. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: THE newspaper and A letter

    We generally use "reading the paper" simply to mean "reading today's daily national newspaper".

    - Mum, can I get dad to play tennis?
    - Oh, don't disturb him now. He's reading the paper.

    The fact that we don't know exactly which newspaper he's reading is irrelevant. The phrase "reading the paper" simply is taken to mean "finding out the news/current affairs from today's paper".
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  4. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: THE newspaper and A letter

    Sometimes. there is no logical reason for common article usage. We often say "the newspaper" when, by normal rules, we would say "a newspaper". The same happens with "dictionary". You will often hear "look in the dictionary" even though more than one dictionary is available.

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