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Shipwrecked on a desert island, coconuts and other fruits formed the basis of the sailors' diet.

This is from the SAT exam. The problem is that the word shipwrecked is misplaced, but it is not the point.

I can't understand why it is other fruits and not the other fruits. The island, obviously, didn't have all fruits present, but some group of them; that's why the other fruit would refer to "the fruits that grew at the island."

Later you have 'the sailors', a similar situation, but now with the.

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Wouldn't the in the sailors simply indicate that we are talking about the shipwrecked sailors, i.e. a specific group of sailors, not sailors that just happen to live on the island? – oerkelens Apr 23 '14 at 9:22
other fruits without the article implies other fruits in general and the author does not want to emphasize exactly which fruits. That's out of the context of those particular fruits being found in the desert island. – Maulik V Apr 23 '14 at 9:32
@MaulikV I have something to say about this sentence. This sentence is understandable, but I think from grammatical point of view this sentence is incorrect due to "shipwrecked". Please comment on that. – Man_From_India Apr 24 '14 at 2:24
@snailplane Exactly that is what my point it. – Man_From_India Apr 24 '14 at 3:44
@Man_From_India Sure...I agree the placement is not that good and Graduate already knows about it. Maybe, we introduce a new term - dangling verb! haha – Maulik V Apr 24 '14 at 4:46
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Shipwrecked on a desert island, coconuts and other fruits formed the basis of the sailors' diet.

By saying the other fruits, you imply that either coconuts and all other fruits known to man were eaten, or coconuts and all other fruits on the island were eaten.

Now, it is highly unlikely that the island provided only edible fruits. A lot of fruits are poisonous, foul-tasting, or otherwise unfit for human consumption.

"Other fruits" just implies that the sailors ate other fruits besides coconuts, not "all the other fruits besides coconuts".

The sailors simply refers to the specific group of sailors that was shipwrecked on the island, not "sailors in general", but "people who happened to be sailors".

(I will ignore the fact--and you had already noticed it--that the sentence implies the fruits were shipwrecked and then were eaten.)

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Are you expected to be able to identify which other fruits they're talking about? Was the list of other fruits mentioned earlier, for example? If so, then the would be felicitous.

Most likely you can't identify which other fruits they are. They probably weren't introduced to you before this sentence. As a result, the noun phrase other fruits should be indefinite, and it is.

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The sailors were not introduced also. – Graduate Apr 24 '14 at 12:29
@Graduate Then the sentence is not felicitous. (If it was presented out of context, then you have to imagine a context which would make it felicitous, and the appropriate context here would be that the fruits were not previously mentioned but the sailors were.) – snailplane Apr 25 '14 at 7:12

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