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  1. Unregistered
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    #1

    In a mess with a & the !!

    Hi everyone,

    Could you please explain these two examples for me:

    In a picture of a boy reading a book (workbook example)

    The student has written: The boy was reading 'the' book.

    The boy was reading 'a' book seems better to me however, I clearly know which book the student has written about as it is the one in the picture. Why then 'a' not 'the' ?

    Secondly, a picture of a boy eating a packet of crisps with the word snack on the packet (workbook example)

    The student has written: The boy was eating the snack.

    Again 'a' sounds better to me. But I know the snack they are talking about and even if I changed it to an actual snack name e.g. The boy was eating a Mars bar it is still 'a' although it is quite clear to both the writer and reader which snack we are talking about!

    Why then does the sound wrong?

    Is it simply because in both cases they haven't been mentioned before?


    Many thanks for helping me with this!


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #2

    Re: In a mess with a & the !!

    The boy was reading 'a' book seems better to me however, I clearly know which book the student has written about as it is the one in the picture. Why then 'a' not 'the' ?

    Only to a point
    Certainly, there is a book in the picture - otherwise you wouldn't be referring to it at all! To use, 'the' book, there would need to have been some previous reference to it which identifies it specifically from all the books in the world; and with a single picture, this isn't possible. Even if the book had "This book belongs to John" written on the front, we would say, "He is reading a book belonging to John." Even though there is something specific and identifying about the book in the picture, so far we have no information which identifies this from all the books that John owns.

    Similarly with the snack given the brand name. It is just one of the millions churned out and eaten every week.
    Compare:
    "Mum, Billy has eaten the Mars bar I had in the fridge." Here, what makes this Mars bar different from the millions is that it was 'the one in the fridge'. We have singled out one Mars bar and identified it out of all the millions.
    Last edited by David L.; 04-Jul-2008 at 07:15.

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