The carbon ... the growing season...

nyggus

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Hi,

Articles again. The below sentence was the first sentence of an academic article.

The carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) contents of plant tissues change during the growing season...​

My questions:
  1. Should "the carbon "(C) and nitrogen (N) contents" be followed by the definite article? I suppose they should: we know that the author means the general "carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) contents of plant tissues" - am I right?
  2. Should indeed "growing season" be followed by the definite article? Here I'm not that sure. The author does not mean here any particular growing season, but a (?) growing season in general. Which article should the author use?

Thanks,
nyggus
 

SoothingDave

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None of them should be followed by an article. An article precedes the noun. The noun follows the article.

1. It's correct. He means the specific carbon content of the plant. As opposed to the content of other atoms.

2. It's correct. The growing season versus the other season(s).
 

nyggus

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Thanks. Sorry for the followed-by-the-article mistake. Embarrassing.

As for (2), I must admit I don't get it. The author does not have any particular growing season in mind: not the current one, not the previous one, not the next one; he says about a growing season in general. What he says equally refers to each growing season. In every single growing season "the carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) contents of plant tissues change", and in fact, generally they change in a similar way in every growing season.
 
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tedmc

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the growing season as distinct from other seasons such as the planting season or the harvesting season.
 

nyggus

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the growing season as distinct from other seasons such as the planting season or the harvesting season.

But do I need a definite article to differentiate "growing season" from "planting season" or any other season? It's obvious that when I say "a growing season" I don't mean the planting season but the growing one, isn't it? I just don't see what function the definite articles serves in this particular use.

Sorry, but this whole use of articles is killing me. It doesn't help that often I see natives with different opinions on particular uses of the articles.
 

nyggus

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There is only one growing season for most crops. That is the growing season.

Thanks Piscean; that sounds convicing, but...

You yourself mentioned that "[t]here is only one growing season for most crops" - I added italics to emphasize what I find problematic here. Yes, annual plant species do have just one growing, the growing season. But it's not the case with biennial and perennial species. (Actually, the article I took the quotation from dealt with trees—but I don't think it's crucial in our discussion.)

Maybe I am a little pinheaded here (I hope not in general), I know. If so, sorry, but I really want to understand the use of articles. The problem here is, I still see the need of using the indefinite article. I accept I may be wrong—you all say the definite article is OK there. And it was there, in the paper. But I want to change my opinion based on an argument I understand and accept. Please, don't stop convicing me if you really think the definite article is OK and that my arguments above (in the previous paragraph of this post) are weak.
 

nyggus

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Even with perennial plants there is only one growing season each year. That is the growing season for a particular plant in one year.

Yes. But the sentence had a general meaning and did not mean any particular year and, hence, any particular growing season. Here's the point: the meaning is general, which is why—sorry!—I still do not see the need of using the definite article but do see the need of using the indefinite one.

You are unlikely to find convincing arguments for the way in which native speakers use (or do not use) articles. The more you study the use of (the) articles more arbitrary it can appear to be. Don't worry too much. If you use articles in a way that some native speakers would not, you will very rarely be misunderstood.

Thanks. It's comforting. I think your comment makes much sense, especially because—forgive the repetition—many natives use determiners differently. What's more, most standard situations do not pose problems; these are non-standard situations that do, and (I might be mistaken here) these situations seldom are straightforward.
 

nyggus

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I can only repeat what I said in my last post - Even with perennial plants there is only one growing season each year. That is the growing season for a particular plant in one year.

'The growing season' is that particular time in any year you care to think of in which a plant grows.

Thanks again. Perhaps I will understand that tomorrow (or next week, or next year). Now I don't. I do understand what you say, but I have to convince myself that what I think is not what I should think but rather what I should think is what you think.

Let me also repeat myself (though not literally): For me, this sentence equally refers to the 2017 growing season, the 2015 growing season, the 2020 growing season - and it doesn't at all matter which growing season it is (even though these growing season do differ), because the sentence explains the general truth about biological processes during plant development.

There's a possibility that we treat the term "growing season" in two different ways. One is that you've used: a term describing a general phenomenon (such as "plant development"), in which case indeed the definite article is justified. The other one is that I've used: a term describing a particular period in a particular year, in which case, I think, the indefinite article is justified.
 

Lynxear

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The carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) contents of plant tissues change during the growing season.

Just a comment here on the use of "The" in this sentence. Carbon and nitrogen are adjectives in this sentence. They modify the noun "contents". Eliminate the adjectives and you have a proper sentence:

The contents of plant tissues change during the growing season.


 

andrewg927

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I'm being a devil's advocate here but I don't think the omission of those articles will make the sentence wrong.

"Carbon and nitrogen contents of plant tissues change during growing season".
 

andrewg927

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Nyggus, you are overthinking it. The growing season is a specific season (plants growing). The contents are also specific. Not contents of a book or an ice bucket. Only plant tissues. Does it make more sense? But like I posted earlier I don't think those articles are needed.
 

nyggus

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I'm being a devil's advocate here but I don't think the omission of those articles will make the sentence wrong.

"Carbon and nitrogen contents of plant tissues change during growing season".

Thanks. With articles, we usually have three options, and with the "growing season" option here, we have voters for each element of the set {a, the, -}. Quite likely, each version is explainable. On the one hand, it doesn't make my life easier. On the other hand, it is kind of reassuring: if only I can justify my position, I can be pretty sure there's someone else who would make the same choice.

Here, though, the problem is I am the only voter for "a growing season" version...

But yes, you're right, I am overthinking this. And maybe indeed "growing season" is a specific season. I think it's time for me to think about determiners in another sentence...
 
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andrewg927

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I'm afraid you will remain the sole voter for "a growing season". "A" just doesn't sound right to me.
 
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