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    #1

    The article THE

    "A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry; it compresses all life, all races, and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubts the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanentresidents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive."

    For non-native speakers of English, the article THE is always the headache. In the above paragraph, which is taken from an article about New York, "the city" seems to refer to the New York City, as the previous paragraphs all talk about NY. But as we know sometimes THE is used to refer to a general thing, not a specific one, such as "The tiger is is a wild animal". Is there a slight chance that the word THE here could also refer to a city in general? In other words, A poem compresses,,,. the city (a city) is like a poetry, and the island of Manhattan (or the New York City) is without ... I know the following sentence doesn't support the above interpretation: "
    it compresses all life, all races, and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines", as not all cities compress all life, all, into a small island. If so, then it's all because of the context that THE can't refer to all the cities. I am trying to explain to students why it can't be used to refer to all cities in this context.
    Last edited by ian2; 29-Jun-2009 at 07:20.


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    #2

    Re: The article THE

    Because the paragraph you quote seemed to be discussing the nature of poetry, and so the (forum) reader is unaware that it is a panegyric on Manhattan, I for one read it as a general reference to 'the city', as opposed to 'the country'...until the specific reference of "small island".

    So - yes, there is the general use of 'the city', 'the country/the countryside'; and it is the context here that makes it a specific reference to Manhattan.
    Last edited by David L.; 29-Jun-2009 at 10:43.

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    #3

    Re: The article THE

    Quote Originally Posted by ian2 View Post
    "A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry; it compresses all life, all races, and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubts the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanentresidents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive."

    Is there a slight chance that the word THE here could also refer to a city in general?

    No, because the sentence begins "The city is like poetry; it compresses all life, all races, and breeds, into a small island ..." The paragraphthen goes on to identify that island as Manhattan. New York is the only city on Manhattan Island, therefore "The city" refers to New York.
    But even without this, if the passage is already talking about New York, it would be very unlikely for "the city" to refer here to cities in general.
    However, your point could be valid if there was no mention of New York or Manhattan - that is, if you only had:
    The city is like poetry; it compresses all life, all races, and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines.

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    #4

    Re: The article THE

    Thanks, David and Ray for your excellent analyses and explanations. Ian

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    #5

    Re: The article THE

    I agree that it can't have a general reference here because of the mention of the 'island' and also some of the details would not fit- not all cities are particularly multicultural.

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