I would normally presume there were more than just one sofa there as I read "a sofa" and the rest of the passage. But this time somehow I cast doubt on it. There could be more than one, there could be just one couch in the apartment. Is this what you feel as you read this, too?As the tears streamed down Elizabeth's face, both Steven and Billie slipped their arms around her and steered her into the apartment.
Elizabeth collapsed onto a sofa. Steven sat beside her, resting one arm along the back of the couch.Thanks in advance.
Last edited by HSS; 06-Oct-2007 at 03:26. Reason: "was more than just one" >>> "were more than just one"
I would have expected "the" in that passage was well, but I think the point is that it wasn't important which piece of furniture poor Elizabeth collapsed on - it was the closest one, which happened to be a sofa instead of a chair.
It would have been much better to have written Steven sat beside her, resting one arm along the back of it.
I was first struck by the symmetrical nature of the two sentences:
the first As the tears streamed down E'face, both.... slipped their arms ... into the apartment: We've got an impression of warmth and over-determination which contrasts with the second part in which everything oreveryone looks cold and objects under-determined- as if everyone was a stranger to the other
the tears go down // collapse onto a sofa ( two different ways of falling!!)
slipped their arms// resting one arm
around her/ along the back of the couch ( arms moved from the Elizabeth's back to the couch's)
the point might be here...
I am very familiar with the words; it is not that that made me wonder about the number of sitting items in the apartment. It is, more like, into the nitty-gritty of how native speakers of English feel when you look at the indefinite article.
If you read a paragraph like:
One August day John went to the high school he long since graduated from. He saw nobody working there, as though the building was deserted, because he visited them right in the middle of the summer vacation. He peeked into the gym and saw a man dribbling a basketball.
What do you imagine, there could have been only the man in the gym, or there could have been someone else too? There could well have been someone else there but couldn't there possibly have been only him?