1

What the difference between these two sentences?

I am the gardener.

I am a gardener.

The first phrase is said by Bob in "Myzzy in Gondoland" episode 1. The second phrase is generated by Google translate (translation this phrase from Russian). What is more correct? Or these phrases have different meaning?

First several phrases of Muzzy episode 1:

The king says:

How do you do?

I'm the King.

I'm the King of Gondoland.

The queen says:

How do you do?

I'm the Queen.

Bob says:

Hello. I'm Bob.

I'm the gardener.

Put another way: How you introduce yourself? "I am a computer programmer," or "I am the computer programmer," and why?

  • Have you studied the use of the articles in English? We use the definite article to (among other things) mark a noun that has been referred to previously, or that is otherwise known to the listener. (We have no way of knowing what "Myzzy in Gondoland" is. As for google "translate", it is completely worthless as a tool with which to study English.) – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Jul 18 '17 at 5:11
  • I added first phrases of Episode 1. Words "king", "queen" and "gardener" are not mentioned before. It is the very beginning of the movie and characters introduce themselves. Why they use definite article? – Andrey Epifantsev Jul 18 '17 at 6:14
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    @Andrew In fact there is "тот самый" is used in the way "the" is used. I have a key - У меня есть ключ, I have the key - У меня есть тот самый ключ. – SovereignSun Jul 18 '17 at 6:19
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    The answer in question linked as duplicate is not complete or not detailed enough. What rule can be applied here? "Use the definite article when you know which particular thing or set of things it is you're talking about."? But "king", "queen" and "gardener" are not things. These words mean positions in some organization. What rule for articles usage with such words? – Andrey Epifantsev Jul 18 '17 at 6:23
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    @P.E.Dant This is not a duplicate since it has a particular context and occasion. And as this OP themself said, the answer in the linked question isn't comprehensive enough to be helpful. – user178049 Jul 18 '17 at 6:49
4

I am a gardener. I am a computer programmer.

You would use a sentence like this to explain what you do for a living. There are many gardeners in the world, and you happen to be one of them.

I am the gardener.

You wouldn't use this to say what you do for a living. Changing the article from a to the makes this gardener special for some reason. There are a few situations where this might be appropriate, such as:

  • You are talking about the staff at a certain mansion. Bob is a butler, Helen is the maid, Rob is the chauffeur, and you are the gardener.

RULE: Use the when you assume there is just one of something in that place.

  • You are out in the yard working. A police officer walks by, and asks, "Who are you?" You might respond by saying, "I am the gardener." By using the instead of a, you are implying, "I am the gardener who works on these grounds."

RULE: Use the to refer to people or objects that are unique.

Similarly, for:

I am the computer programmer.

Most likely, you wouldn't say that unless you were the only programmer employed by the company, and it was obvious that the context of the question was talking about that particular company.

In other words, let's assume you work for the Acme Corporation, and you are the company's only programmer. If you were at a social gathering, and someone asked you, "What do you do for a living?" you would answer:

I am a computer programmer.

However, if someone was getting a tour of the Acme Headquarters, and they asked you, "What do you do here?" then you could answer:

I am the computer programmer.

By using "the" instead of "a", the person asking the question will be able to discern that Acme only has one computer programmer on staff. If there were more than one, you might say: "I am a programmer," or, "I am one of the programmers."

| improve this answer | |
  • Another reason for 'I am the gardener' in the presented phrases' context might be that the gardener responds this way by deliberately referring to how the Queen and King responded to the same question--by adding 'the' rather than 'a' before their "professions'" names, which above all denoted their uniqueness and higher rank. Thus Bob's 'in unison' response could be an ironic 'gesture' meaning 'as a gardener I am not less human than you,' and the like. After all, it depends on the context, and could be used to introduce Bob's character to audience just from the very beginning of the story. – Giorgi Jul 20 '17 at 18:07

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