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  1. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #31

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    I'm having great trouble understanding post #28, unfortunately. Let me try and clear up a few points, just so that I can understand better how you're thinking about this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    But twice the dose typically prescribed makes it unique to me, whether I know the value of the dose or not.

    I'm pretty sure you don't mean 'unique'. You mean 'specified'. Right? If I'm wrong, please say more about what you mean by 'unique'.

    I've given him a car that is twice older than the car I usually give him. (There are an indefinite number of such cars there.)
    An indefinite number of cars? There's only one car.

    I've given him the car that is twice older than the car I usually give him. (The car is unique.)
    - ...patients given the amount of the chemotherapeutic agent daunorubicin that was twice the dose typically prescribed." (The amount is unique.)
    As before, you don't mean 'unique'.

    I think you're having trouble trying to understand how an indefinite noun phrase can be specific. Is that right? How can the NP use an indefinite article and at the same time seem to be quite specific?

  2. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #32

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Alexy, you've posted a private post publicly again.
    This thread is not private. It's a discussion, open to all members. (Though it is hard to imagine that anyone would want to join in at this point!)

    It has been moved from the Ask a Teacher forum to this one, where it belongs.

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    #33

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I'm pretty sure you don't mean 'unique'. You mean 'specified'. Right?
    You're right, 'specified' is a better choice.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    An indefinite number of cars? There's only one car.
    Yes, I gave him only one car, but the number of cars that are twice older than (or twice as old as?) the car I usually give him is indefinite in the world. Or, there could be a limited set of such older cars I own, but the listener still doesn't know which one I gave him. This set could consist of just one car, but I would still use 'a' if I were sure the listener didn't have its reference in mind.

    Back to "amount", if we're talking about its value, it should be specific because there is only one possible value that is twice the dose typically prescribed. But if we mean a physical entity, there could be an indefinite number of such entities in the world. Suppose I have 100 grams of the agent. I can make one thousand 100 mg portions out of it. Only in this sense 'an amount' would make sense to me in the sentence.

    If the example just said 'an amount of 50 mg' or 'more than usual', I wouldn't have any problems with it. But it mentions the dose typically prescribed. If the dose is definite, how can the dose + the dose (= the amount) be indefinite?

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I think you're having trouble trying to understand how an indefinite noun phrase can be specific. Is that right? How can the NP use an indefinite article and at the same time seem to be quite specific?
    I thought I understood that, but maybe I missed something. By 'specific indefinite' I mean an indefinite NP with the speaker's reference we discussed earlier.
    Last edited by Alexey86; 05-May-2020 at 12:34.
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  4. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #34

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    Yes, I gave him only one car, but the number of cars that are twice older than (or twice as old as?) the car I usually give him is indefinite in the world.

    I don't understand this.

    1) What does the number of cars that are twice as old as the one you gave him have to do with anything?
    2) What do you mean by 'indefinite in the world'?
    3) How can you 'usually give' someone a car, anyway?

    Back to "amount", if we're talking about its value, it should be specific because there is only one possible value that is twice the dose typically prescribed. But if we mean a physical entity, there could be an indefinite number of such entities in the world. Suppose I have 100 grams of the agent. I can make one thousand 100 mg portions out of it. Only in this sense 'an amount' would make sense to me in the sentence.
    I don't follow any of this, I'm afraid. The amount is a specific amount.

    Yes, we're talking a physical entity—the drug. Are you talking about an indefinite number of drugs? Why?

    If the example just said 'an amount of 50 mg' or 'more than usual', I wouldn't have any problems with it. But it mentions the dose typically prescribed. If the dose is definite, how can the dose + the dose (= the amount) be indefinite?
    Huh?

    If the typical dose is, say, 100mg, the dose he was given was double that, i.e., 200mg.

    Sorry, I'm completely lost here. We might have to take just one or two sentences at a time.

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    #35

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    What does the number of cars that are twice as old as the one you gave him have to do with anything?
    It partly explains 'a' in this sentence. I thought it could be a useful analog clarifying my difficulties with the ‘amount’ example. It’s frustrating that I still can’t make it clear to you. I’m sorry. Let’s forget about the ‘car example’. I think it won’t really take us forward in the discussion.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I don't follow any of this, I'm afraid. The amount is a specific amount.

    Yes, we're talking a physical entity—the drug. Are you talking about an indefinite number of drugs? Why?
    I’m just saying that the number of equal portions of drugs is indefinite in principal, in contrast to the value of their mass/volume, say 100mg. There is only one ‘100mg’ value.
    I’d like to recall our discussion of article usage with The Cambridge Dictionary. I asked you, “If I had five copies of the dictionary and found a bookmark in one of them, could I say, "I found it in a Cambridge Dictionary?” You replied that it would be correct. And this is exactly what I’m talking about here! ‘Amount’ as a value/measure is an invariant like the contents/information The Cambridge Dictionary contains, while ‘amount’ as a physical entity/portion is like an exemplar/embodiment of the dictionary in the form of a book. There are an indefinite number of such books.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    If the typical dose is, say, 100mg, the dose he was given was double that, i.e., 200mg.
    Sorry, I'm completely lost here. We might have to take just one or two sentences at a time.
    Sorry for misleading, jutfrank. It’s totally my fault. I used 50mg as a random value. I should have continued to stick to 100mg. I wouldn’t have difficulty with the example if it said, ‘...given an amount of the agent X that more than usual/the agent X in an amount of 200mg (or in the amount of 200mg?)/the agent X in an amount of 200mg, which is twice the dose typically prescribed’.

    But in the original example we have only ‘twice the dose typically prescribed.’ And I can’t understand how it can remain indefinite in this case. To me, 'the dose typically prescribed' + 'the dose typically prescribed' is definite and therefore should be 'the amount'. The only context in which 'an amount' would make sense to me here is (as I’ve said above) if it meant a physical portion, not a value, i.e. if it functioned as metonymy. Literally speaking, we only take drugs, not their amounts, because the latter are just abstract values or measures. Another example: if I say that I drank 100 gram, it will be metonymy because we can only drink liquids, not abstract measures.

    To sum up, ‘an amount’, being an abstract measure as such, would make sense to me in the example if it were used as metonymy for a physical portion of the agent.
    Last edited by Alexey86; 06-May-2020 at 23:06. Reason: fixing a typo, reformulation
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  6. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #36

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Well, if that's how it makes sense to you, that's fine, I suppose? Native speakers don't have the problem that you're having, though. The fact is that the amount does not work in this context.

    The specification that was twice the typical dose prescribed has no bearing on the indefiniteness of the phrase as a whole. It's not that as something becomes more specified it suddenly becomes definite. Don't think of definite NPs as necessarily being more precisely 'defined' than indefinite ones.

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    #37

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Well, if that's how it makes sense to you, that's fine, I suppose?
    Unfortunately, it isn't, since my way of thinking has led me to the wrong conclusion.

    Is there any context in which 'Patients were given the amount of the agent X that was twice the dose typically prescribed' will be correct?

    I've also found some confusing examples of in a/the amount of:

    Total RNA was added to RT reaction in an amount of 120 ng.
    Formic or hydrochloric acid was added to each extract in an amount of 2%, 5%, 10%, or 15% by volume.
    We have a first trust mortgage in the amount of $850,000 at a rate of 6 percent.
    Also, I did give a security deposit with an extra deposit in the amount of $695.

    Why do the articles vary?

    P.S.
    I wouldn't be so persistent in my questions if I could find a guide to article usage with 'amount' in different contexts. Swan merely touches on the subject.
    Last edited by Alexey86; 07-May-2020 at 13:01.
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  8. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #38

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    Is there any context in which 'Patients were given the amount of the agent X that was twice the dose typically prescribed' will be correct?


    Yes, of course. When the speaker want to make specific reference to which amount, for example. Imagine there were a few different amounts to choose from.

    You can always come up with a context if you have enough imagination.

    I've also found some confusing examples of in a/the amount of:

    Total RNA was added to RT reaction in an amount of 120 ng.
    Formic or hydrochloric acid was added to each extract in an amount of 2%, 5%, 10%, or 15% by volume.
    We have a first trust mortgage in the amount of $850,000 at a rate of 6 percent.
    Also, I did give a security deposit with an extra deposit in the amount of $695.

    Why do the articles vary?
    The reference is different. The speakers are referring in different ways. This is always the reason.

    I wouldn't be so persistent in my questions if I could find a guide to article usage with 'amount' in different contexts.
    I severely doubt that you will find such a thing. There's nothing special about 'amount', as far as I can see.

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    #39

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Imagine there were a few different amounts to choose from.
    So, the main reason for the speaker to use "the" here is the listener's awareness of this specific amount, right?

    - How much drugs do you usually give the patient?
    - 50mg. In case of urgent need, we raise the dose to 100mg.
    - What about yesterday?
    - The patient's condition worsened, so we gave her the amount of drugs that was twice the dose usually prescribed.


    Does 'the amount' work here?

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    The reference is different. The speakers are referring in different ways. This is always the reason.

    Does it mean that the speaker should think that the listener is aware of 'the amount' for it to be correct? What confuses me is that the last two examples sound as if
    the amount of money were new information for the listener/reader. Would you please explain how exactly they differ from the first two sentences?

    Last edited by Alexey86; 07-May-2020 at 17:52.
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  10. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #40

    Re: I saw a blackbird vs I've read a book (reference and article usage)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    So, the main reason for the speaker to use "the" here is the listener's awareness of this specific amount, right?


    I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean in my imagined context where the speaker is picking out one amount from many?

    - How much of the drug do you usually give the patient?
    - 50mg. In case of urgent need, we raise the dose to 100mg.
    - What about yesterday?
    - The patient's condition worsened, so we gave her [the amount of drugs that was] twice the dose usually prescribed.


    Does 'the amount' work here?
    No. Use either an or remove the entire bracket part.

    Does it mean that the speaker should think that the listener is aware of 'the amount' for it to be correct?
    Huh? Does what mean what?

    Would you please explain how exactly they differ from the first two sentences?
    The only difference is that for some reason that I'm unaware of the speakers decided to make reference in that way. I suspect it's something to do with the fact that they're about sums of money. I don't know. It's really not easy to say why somebody makes a certain kind of reference because it depends so much on the context of the discourse as a whole. I'll have to think about this more before, but I'm not sure it's possible to say.

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