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    #1

    need <the> exercise

    Pete is leaving, and tells his uncle:
    -- I'm going to the downtown library, I'll see you later.
    -- Yah, wait, Pete. I'll drive you there, buddy.
    -- I'll take the train.
    -- No, no, no. I need the exercise. Just go on. Go, go, go. C'mon.
    Spider-Man, movie

    I think "an exercise" would be correct here too, but "the exercise" means "the particular exercise of driving you to the library". Am I correct? Thank you.


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    #2

    Re: need <the> exercise

    An exercise wouldn't work. It would mean some specific exercise such as push-ups. Pete's uncle must be speaking ironically, as driving a car doesn't provide much exercise. Normally a person refusing a ride in favor of walking might offer "I need the exercise" as an excuse.
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    #3

    Re: need <the> exercise

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    An exercise wouldn't work. It would mean some specific exercise such as push-ups.
    Why, can't he consider "driving a car" an exercise, in the same way as we consider "push-ups" an exercise?
    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    Pete's uncle must be speaking ironically, as driving a car doesn't provide much exercise. Normally a person refusing a ride in favor of walking might offer "I need the exercise" as an excuse.
    I don't think he's being ironic. The uncle is an aged person, and compared to sitting at home, going and driving a car is indeed an exercise. Comparing to walking, it is not.


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    #4

    Re: need <the> exercise

    "I need an exercise" makes the listener think something like Do you want me to show you a set of scales to practice on the piano?
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    #5

    Re: need <the> exercise

    Please, imagine a situation: a prisoner comes into the prison library, and the librarian offers him the book "War and Peace", saying that there's nothing else available in the library. The prisoner says:
    -- Ok, I need a book anyway, I'm bored to death here.
    -- Ok, I need something to read anyway, I'm bored to death here.
    -- Ok, I need any book anyway, I'm bored to death here.

    "A book" would be idiomatic here, right? If so, how does this context differ from the original?


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    #6

    Re: need <the> exercise

    Quote Originally Posted by Vik-Nik-Sor View Post
    Please, imagine a situation: a prisoner comes into the prison library, and the librarian offers him the book "War and Peace", saying that there's nothing else available in the library. The prisoner says:
    -- Ok, I need a book anyway, I'm bored to death here.
    -- Ok, I need something to read anyway, I'm bored to death here.
    -- Ok, I need any book anyway, I'm bored to death here.

    "A book" would be idiomatic here, right? If so, how does this context differ from the original?
    Your question identifies the confusion. Thanks.

    The first two sentences are natural, but the third one doesn't work. In the first sentence, the prisoner is asking for one instance of the class "books", hence the indefinite article.

    If Pete's uncle said I need an exercise, he would be talking about an instance of the class "exercises". The countable noun exercise refers to specific exercises: push-ups, arpeggios, math drills, etc. Pete's uncle is using the non-countable noun exercise which means beneficial physical activity.

    Does that clear things up?
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    #7

    Re: need <the> exercise

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    Your question identifies the confusion. Thanks.

    The first two sentences are natural, but the third one doesn't work. In the first sentence, the prisoner is asking for one instance of the class "books", hence the indefinite article.

    If Pete's uncle said I need an exercise, he would be talking about an instance of the class "exercises". The countable noun exercise refers to specific exercises: push-ups, arpeggios, math drills, etc. Pete's uncle is using the non-countable noun exercise which means beneficial physical activity.

    Does that clear things up?
    That's clearer now! But then I'm suggesting zero-article instead of the indefinite one: "No, no, no. I need exercise. Just go on. Go, go, go. C'mon." Would it work in the same way as "a book" in my example about the prisoner?


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    #8

    Re: need <the> exercise

    Quote Originally Posted by Vik-Nik-Sor View Post
    That's clearer now! But then I'm suggesting zero-article instead of the indefinite one: "No, no, no. I need exercise. Just go on. Go, go, go. C'mon." Would it work in the same way as "a book" in my example about the prisoner?
    I need exercise would work. It's more idiomatic to say I need the exercise in the scenario we're discussing, though. You can think of it as being short for I need the exercise that driving my power-steering-equipped car with an automatic transmission will provide.
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    #9

    Re: need <the> exercise

    I need some exercise would also work.

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