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Thread: the or a.

  1. ShadeWe's Avatar
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    #1

    the or a.

    I'm still confused between them sometimes, and before I started talking about my problem, let me present what I learned recently (for better understanding)

    This is a thing we need to worry about. - the A article stands here for emphasizing that this is not one thing we need to worry about, right? (there's more than one thing).

    And when I place the instead of a:
    This is the thing we need to worry about. - I'm emphasizing that this is one problem we need to worry about.

    Now let's move on to my today's problem.

    Reading a book about programming, I came across this sentence:
    In programming, we often talk about (1) types that are immutable, which means that once you’ve set them up, you can no longer modify them.

    Why isn't the article placed on the place of (1)? If I say "these are the things we need to worry about", will it be right? I'm covering all the things we need to worry about by the article, aren't I?

    Is it right to think that when we say something like: These are things we need to worry about (Yeah, I think you're tired of this example already), we talking about, maybe, 2-3 things whereas there are 6, 7, one hundred million or more things we need to worry about? Is it right to think that the sentence's author wanted to say that they don't talk about all the types that are immutable?
    Last edited by ShadeWe; 04-May-2017 at 14:45.

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    #2

    Re: the or a.

    This is a thing we need to worry about - These are things/some things we need to worry about.
    This is the thing we need to worry about - These are the things we need to worry about
    .

    We normally use the definite article before plural nouns in the same way as we use it before singular nouns.

  3. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: the or a.

    It's hard to comment on your sentence with much confidence. We would really need more context to give you a comprehensive answer.

    What we do know is that the lack of an article indicates that the writer is talking about types with some degree of generality. It seems he's referring to a general class of types, ie. ones that are immutable. This is a non-specific use.

    I believe one of the keys to understanding the use of the English article system lies in first understanding degrees of generality/specificity.

  4. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #4

    Re: the or a.

    If the person is not talking about all the types that are immutable, then it makes sense not to use the article. If there are, for example, six types and they are included in their discussion, then the article works.

  5. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: the or a.

    Please be aware that computer programming has its own language--one that those of us who are not computer geeks would probably have trouble understanding.

  6. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: the or a.

    Please don't say "my today's problem". (In fact, you probably should have omitted the first four paragraphs.)

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