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Thread: in (a) line

  1. VIP Member
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    in (a) line

    Dear teachers,

    There is a brief excerpt of a reading. Please see the expressions in bold.

    At a movie house I waited in (a) line recently for a ticket. We moved forward in neat and orderly fashion.

    Suddenly, when I was just a few places from the ticket seller’s window, two young men walked up to the head of the line and tried to buy tickets immediately.

    An argument broke out around us. “Hey! We’ve been waiting on (the) line. Why don’t you?

    “That’s right. Get back in line.”

    Could you tell me why in the original text the expression “in line” is without an indefinite article? I think that in conformity with the authoritative Grammar rule it have to be one “a” between both components of the expression in question.

    Thank you in advance for your efforts.


    Last edited by vil; 25-Jan-2008 at 07:51.

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    Re: in (a) line

    There is no such authoritative grammar rule that I know of: in line is idiomatic-- We waited in line. However, waited in a line is also possible, if less common; it might more likely refer to a situation where a lineup was not expected.

    The head of the line in your passage now refers to the previously-mentioned line, so the definite article is called for.

    Your third case is mistyped; it should read We’ve been waiting [at the head] of the line or We’ve been waiting in (the) line.

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    Re: in (a) line

    Dear Mister Micawber,

    Thank you for your prompt reply.

    I am in full agreement with your statement. Really, much of what you say is true. I have to follow your recommendations because you are a NES and. You should to be very many familiar with English language, as with formal English language, as well as with common English language. Thank you for your very professional notes.

    It is a common knowledge that “in line” is idiomatic. Probably, this fact enervates the strict implementation of the common Grammatical rules.

    I know that

    • “in line for” = waiting in order for, as in
    “He is next in line for the presidency” ( in this case I don’t insist on putting in n “a” between “line” and “for”, because this would be incorrectly and foolishly.

    • “on line” = waiting behind other in a row or queue.
    Did you see above. “In a row not” “in row.” In my previous post I alluded to the Grammatical rule that in case of class nouns we have to use an indefinite article when the noun is used in a general sense and was not previously mentioned, so the article has the meaning of “every”. This one was the cause for my misleading. Unfortunately I am easy duped. Thank you for your convincing insistence.

    “The children stood in line for their lunches.”

    “There were at least 50 persons on line for opera tickets.”

    • “in line with” = in conformity or agreement within ordinary or proper limits
    “The new policy was intended to keep prices in line with their competitor.”

    “It’s up to the supervisor to keep the nurses in line.

    All of these terms employ “line” in the sense of “an orderly row or series of persons or objects.

    I think, I shouldn’t change the third case in no account (with the exception of fixing “of” to “on”)

    We don’t need to change the original situation, which is as follow:

    I was almost at the head of the line, shifting impatiently my weight from one foot to the other, when
    two impudent queue jumper walked in and wanted to buy tickets immediately. I was shocked for all that, so my discomfort found expression in the following angry tirade: “ Hey. We’ve waiting on (the) line . Why don’t you?” (Please see point 2 above)
    I was upheld from all the in the line, who shouted unanimous like one man ”That’s right. Get back in line.

    Thank you again for your backing.



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