1

They received a final demand for payment.

The goverment is unlikely to agree to the rebel’s demands for independence.

These sentences are from cambridge dictionary. In the second sentence, there is the definite article but could I use the zero article? I cant see any difference between these two sentences, but one is using the definite article and one not. Why?

  • 1
    The the in your second sentence modifies rebel, not demands. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 15 '18 at 21:33
2

StoneyB is right about the the in your second example — it refers to the rebel. But you could take out "rebel's" and have the example you are trying to ask about: "The government is unlikely to agree to the demands for independence."

In one sense, the distinction between a and the here is just the normal one — if you said the government was unlikely to agree to a demand for independence, it would mean that no such demand had been given. But saying the demand(s) means that demands have been given. A is indefinite, and the is definite.

But in the first example, there's a bit more nuance. If you change it to "They received the final demand for payment," it would indicate that the demand was expected, even before it was given. Wording it this way indicates that the demand might have been a surprise, or at least that they weren't counting on receiving it.

  • And why is the article before rebel’s? Could I also omit it? – trenccan Feb 16 '18 at 4:38
  • To be clear: I was saying that we could just remove the word rebel's in order to clearly address your question. It definitely changes the meaning of the sentence, though. As far as whether you can remove the article before rebel's, no, you really can't. Not with a singular rebel, at least — you either need a or the before that. You could remove the article if it were rebels' (plural), but then you'd be referring to any rebels that may or may not exist. The article the has to be there in order to be clear that it's referring to a specific rebel. – spoko Feb 16 '18 at 14:58

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