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    • Join Date: Oct 2008
    • Posts: 3
    #1

    There is a/the...

    Hello!
    I have a question about existential sentences ("there"sentences).


    The following sentences are from a certain thesis:


    It is generally claimed that the notional subject of exitential sentences must be indefinite:
    a. There is a book on the table.
    b.*There is the book on the table.

    But we can't always say that the definite NPs are not allowed to occur in the portion of the notional subject of existential sentences:
    c. There was the shadow of a big dog in the dark.
    d. There's the possibility that John will come in time.

    These NPs (c,d) contain the postposed modifiers. In each case, as a result of restriction by modifiers, the referent becomes identifiable.


    However, there are some exceptions I found in my book:
    e.*There's the book of linguistics on the desk.
    f.*There's the possibility for John to go abroad.

    Why are these sentences incorrect?
    When do you use "the"?

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      • Native Language:
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    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 57,833
    #2

    Re: There is a/the...

    e- This could be correct if we had a previous reference to it being the only one. If, say, I were looking for a specific book (linguistics) and found it, then this sentence would be OK. Without this, then 'linguistics; does not restrict it enough for the definite article.
    f- With d), I would use either the indefinite or definite article depending on the degree of likelihood. Again, I would say that f) could work if we had some information about the likelihood.


    • Join Date: Oct 2008
    • Posts: 3
    #3

    Re: There is a/the...

    Thank you, Tdol!
    I asked another native speakers the same question and the following is an e-mail one of them sent me.
    What do you think about this?


    e.*There's the book of linguistics on the desk.
    If you were searching for the book and finally found it, you could say this.

    (→Maybe the same as your idea...but he also says sentence B is similar to sentence E. According to him, it would be correct under the same situation...)

    f.*There's the possibility for John to go abroad.
    If you came across a way that John could go abroad.
    For example if he didn't have enough money, but you saw a part-time job advertised that would suit him.

    He also says this:
    Sentences C,D,E and F would all usually use "a", however in the situations I explained you would use "the".
    The two sentences C and D would not really fit the situations I explained about sentences E and F, so C and D would always use "a".


    I'm a little confused...

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