First of all, in the Polish language there is not any system of articles, we use demonstratives if we want to be more specific. After years of teaching English, I realize that most students whose languages do not possess any system of these articles have similar problems. Having many books about articles in English I have realized that most of the problems are problems of semantics and pragmatics.

Hawkins says that there is a location theory in which the speaker forces the hearer to locate the object within a given location here is the example

To give an example, in the town of Halifax in Yorkshire there is still at the top of Gibbet Street an original gibbet, i.e. a form of gallows originally used for hanging sheep and fleece stealers. The inhabitants of Halifax know about the existence of this gibbet and if one night a bunch of hooligans knock it down the local press can simply report the next day that the Gibbet no longer stands. But it is no part of our general knowledge to be able to predict the existence of gibbets in towns and any newcomer to the town who did not know of its existence, even though he knew what a gibbet was, might legitimately ask a friend on reading the report: what or which gibbet? But this same newcomer would not be confused by a similar front-page scandal about the town clerk.

The question is that Chesterman says that uniqueness can be canceled if someone asks I didn’t know about that what is that? Chesterman says that Hawkins treats uniqueness in a relax way.

Here I want to say something about a situation from my life and hope you can clear my mind.

Associations in English, known as anaphora, are obvious after mentioning any introduction. Here comes something ambiguous: We know McDonald’s. Everyone had a chance to visit it. In Poland we have a device at McDonald’s called ordering machines, where every client can order food without going to the counter. After the order is placed he pays by credit card, using the ordering machine and then collects his order without waiting in lines. In every McDonald’s there is one ordering machine. In bigger ones there are more. Once I was talking to a friend of mine from Massachusetts and told him about our local McDonald's. We spoke for 30 minutes on the phone and I said the tables were dirty, workers who took my order were friendly. It was perfectly fine he understood, he shared the same associations. Suddenly, the ordering machine was broken. He asked me "What?" In his city, he never encountered this contraption.

Hawkins states that the speaker and listener must share the same knowledge. Christophersen argues that we should avoid 'wh' questions in associations, but when it comes to uniqueness it is hard. Even Hawkins sates that when there is one thing the speaker forces the listener to locate the thing in a set of objects. For example, "Brown 1974:347 The tenor soloist in Verdi's Requiem." The knowledge to which the speaker appeals does not belong to what we consider as average knowledge (not everyone knows that there is always one tenor soloist). The choice of the definite article may be have an in the speaker instructs the reader that he should know that there is one tenor. Brown adds that no one introduces the phrase with "there is a soloist". Quirk et. al. mentions that speakers omit unspoken preambles.

The question is that even among natives there are misunderstanding because the speakers/speakers never implement an introductory phrase when there is one of something.

Another example is "the church in my neighborhood”. The speaker says there is one church and forces the listener/the reader to locate it. In face to face communications we can ask what church etc., but reading an article we have to accept it. On the other hand, Quirk gives an example "a house at the end of the road is for sale". We assume that the listener/reader does not know.

We can say "several churches in the city" and in every district there can be one church. I have seen example like "a church in my neighborhood organized". either the speaker thinks that the listener does not know "a" originally meant one and Lyons sates that "a" is neutral when it comes to uniqueness, but if someone says "the church in my village", this definitely means uniqueness.

The following examples show perfect example that uniqueness is cancelable.

Let’s imagine that we have a chain of cafes in our city. Let’s call it Best café.

I can say:

A Best café on Cloverfield Lane 10 was bombarded last night

I can assume that either the speaker does not know or they can be more then one in the neighborhood or I can say

One of the Best cafés in our city was bombarded. (meaning there are more)

A Best café on Cloverfield Lane 10 was bombarded last night and the other one on Elm Street was set on fire ( both streets are in my city, which means that the cafes are not unique ?

In the same way the speaker can make a mistake if he misjudges the listener’s knowledge? Every book describes only wider situations like the sun, stars etc. Lots of authors argues with this problem.

Another issue that I want to present is reminiscence.

this is from Hawkins too A similar example has been pointed out to me by John Trim. Imagine that a married couple are reflecting, in the twilight of their days, on a scaring experience which they once had when their car broke down on a level crossing just as the red light began to flash.

One of them might say :

4.66 Oh yes, I remember. There we were, completely helpless, when a nice friendly policeman came rushing to the scene and instructed the signalman to stop the oncoming train.

Hawins states The optionality of the in 4.66 can be accounted for in terms of the time lapse which separates the event, when the policeman would have been talked about, from the actual reminiscence. If the speaker assumes that the referent is still sufficiently fresh in the hearer’s memory to be a member of the previous discourse set, then the will be possible. But if he thinks that the hearer may have forgotten about the policeman, or alternatively if he wishes to formally reintroduce this object to the hearer by consciously ignoring previous discourse,which took place so long ago anyway, then an indefinite article may again be used. But it is a prerequisite for deliberately ignoring previous discourse in this way that the referent must have been introduced a long time before. Thus, the speaker could not, shortly after uttering 4.66, continue with 4.67, referring anaphorically to the nice, friendly policeman

The problem is how far we can go when it comes to reminiscence. Here are identical examples found in different sources.

This is a snippet of conversation between two people two different versions from a handout I receive from my ex teacher

Officer Sheikho sent for the criminal who had recently been accused of stealing his carpet and interrogated him, 'Two years ago, you stole a carpet from my house

my comment “of course in every house there is more then one carpet. We can assume they might have been identical and the thief stole one one of them. On the other hand I came across this”

Hey you remember two years ago you stole the carpet from my house. ( here the speaker assumes that the hearer still remembers the carpet. Even though there might have been several he can assume that the thief can locate it? How big is the time shift?

another example

You remember how we complained about the hair in the soup? Here we can convert easily into relative clauses we complained about the hair that we had in the dish

But we have this one as well

yeah I remember how we complained about a hair that was in our soup

These ones were from a handout delivered by our ex teacher at university when I was a student

Ex hey please kill the fly. I cannot stand it Ex It was funny how you killed a fly that bothered us

My comment In the second example the speaker uses a time shift or there were several insects etc…. and fly is ignored in the first one we deal with a situation

Ex 2 The last time I saw you, you gave me a knife and a loaded blaster and told me to wait in a bunker 'till daylight.

Ex 3 The last time I saw you, you gave me the knife and a loaded blaster and told me to wait in a bunker 'till daylight.

In Ex 3 we still assume that the listener knows the knife or in Ex 2 it is a sort of time shift like reminiscence. Nevertheless, what can be special about a knife. Does reminiscence refer only to people

there are many situations where we can find such examples. just wondering how natives see that. I have asked lots of my native friends, teachers, professors at Polish universities and believe me Sir No one knew the right answer

My house has the roof. Hawkins says when there is a direct reference to the reference. We can say this for instance when we mean a brand like I have the shoes ( meaning the type of shoes. However it is perfectly fine to say

I have an Hp Pavilion DV677 (meaning I have one of the models)
I have the HP ( I have this model)

In every day speech we say I have a meaning I have one model out of all models

  • 1
    Was there a question in there somewhere? This reads like it was copy/pasted by a bot, or a 419 scammer ... What's a 419 scam? What's a bot? Are they cancellable? I would like to cancel 419 bots, please. ... I am intrigued to learn that Polish has no articles and instead uses demonstratives. I don't know what that means, so I'll have to go look it up ...
    – mc01
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 17:00
  • This is an email? Do you know where you are?
    – Robusto
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 4:04

1 Answer 1


If I say to you

Your gizmo is bleeding.

you may not know what I mean by "gizmo" but you do know that I think it is yours, and if you trust my perceptions and intelligence and command of the language, you will know that it is something capable of bleeding, that I'm not telling you that your thermos is leaking.

If you say to your friend

The ordering machine was broken.

your friend will understand that you have referred to something which you (mistakenly) consider to be shared knowledge. You (mistakenly) believe he knows what you're referring to. The determiner reveals your thought. His question, "The what?" tells you that you have made such a mistake.

So your friend does not need to share the knowledge. He merely needs to know that the implies shared knowledge. The definite article orients him to the fact that you have something particular in mind and that you assume he is "on your wavelength".

  • Or his question, "What ordering machine?" Same thing. We use "the" when we are referring to one in particular, and that the listener knows which one that is. That's why we can say, "Two years ago, you stole the diamond necklace from my house." That sentence refers to one particular necklace – namely, the one that was stolen. Good answer.
    – J.R.
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 15:58
  • Or rather, "and we expect the listener to know which one that is", @J.R.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 16:29

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