I got this question in an examination:

Find the error:

My host suffered from (A)/ the illusion that (B)/ I was an actor from daily soaps. (C)/ No error (D)

In my opinion, the answer should be (B) as "an" should be used here to introduce a new idea, instead of "the". But the answer provided in the answer key is (D), i.e no error. Is this a typo or am I wrong?

  • 1
    Could you explain further why you chose B? "the illusion" refers to the idea in his mind, and is correctly used here. – user3169 Dec 13 '17 at 6:48
  • Well, a person, say X, is telling another person, say Y, that his host suffered from "an/the" illusion and afterwards is explaining the illusion to Y. So in the first clause nothing is known about the kind of illusion. Hence in my opinion "an" should be used, as it is used to introduce "illusion". – Vandana Dec 13 '17 at 9:46
  • I think it is implied that the host knew what the specific illusion (the illusion) was. The example does not include reported speech. – user3169 Dec 13 '17 at 19:04

I'd probably argue (C) is wrong, as I would have written, "an actor from the daily soaps," but that's not directly related to your question.

The use of "the illusion that ..." is perfectly idiomatic here. The writer is talking about a specific illusion, clearly defined — a common semantic technique native speakers use to focus on one particular variety of some general concept, even if that concept has not been previously mentioned. Examples:

When looking at the way business is run today, as compared with a century ago, we can see a much greater focus on ...

Early on Micheal revealed the ability to throw a ball harder and farther than any of his classmates.

I feel the need — the need for speed!

Side note: In this sentence, I feel "illusion" is inapt. I would have used either the stronger "delusion", or something else like "misconception", "misunderstanding", "mistaken belief", "false impression", or various other more appropriate words and phrases. Someone with a wide English vocabulary wouldn't feel the need to shoehorn "illusion" into where it doesn't fit.

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