the article "the" before qualifying phrases

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Hi everybodyI've been completely confused with the use of the article "the" preceded a qualifying phrase. For example, the meaning of... / meaning of... or characteristic of human lang / the characteristic of human lang... I think using the article "the" in such positions is arbitrary- based on the personal style of writing or preference of a writer. Am I right?Some teachers of mine said that it is based on the qualifying phrase which be known or unknown. But, I've seen lots of examples in different books in which "the" is used even at the beginning of the book or chapter without prior provision of any information making the qualifying phrase known.I'll be very thankful for your help

asked Oct 25 '12 at 08:06 Reza New member

2 answers


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The use of articles -- a, an, the -- is not arbitrary nor is it based on the personal style or preference of the writer. There are rules that tell us when a determiner (articles are a subset of determiner) must be used. The choice of which determiner, however, is up to the writer and the intended meaning.

 

The existence of a qualifying phrase -- whatever that is -- does not tell us whether "the" should or shouldn't be used.

 

A determiner must be used before all singular count nouns. A, an, the, this, that, and one are the most common determiners in this situation. A determiner -- the, these, those, many, some, et. -- may be used before plural count nouns. A determiner may be used before non-count nouns (which are always singular).

 

A (and an) is an indefinite article. It is used when you want to say the singular count noun is non-specific or general in nature. The definite article "the" is used when you want to refer to a specific singular count noun, a specific plural count noun, or a specific non-count noun.

link comment answered Oct 25 '12 at 20:33 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow
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Hi Jeffthanks for your answer, but it didn't convince me! You said:"The definite article "the" is used when you want to refer to a specific singular count noun, a specific plural count noun, or a specific non-count noun." So, what is the difference between examples I said? How can we understand when we use the article "the" in such situations (e.g. The meaning of a word depends on.... or meaning of a word depends on) ? According to you, we can use the article "the" before every types of words whether they be a specific singular count noun, a specific plural count noun, or a specific non-count noun. Please, if it is possible, clarify the use of the article "the" in of-phrases.(such as what I just said, that is,the use of the article "the"...).Thanks a million!

link comment answered Oct 27 '12 at 06:24 Reza New member

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