1

Here are two questions from Quora:

1) How fast does an airliner reach an altitude of 500m after it starts to take off?

2) What is the average time for an airplane to reach the altitude of 30,000 feet?

What is the correct usage? Is there any difference? Why not use “zero article”?

2

Is there something special about the altitude of 500m, that the listener/reader should already know?

For example:

This audio enconding standard doesn't allow frequencies at the 20KHz limit.

20KHz is the upper limit of human hearing, it's special and the writer/speaker expects the listener/reader to already know that.

If there isn't anything special about that altitude, then an should be used.

30,000 feet might be where the sky turns into space or something like that, or the writer/speaker may be referring to a line on a diagram.

1

1) How fast does an airliner reach an altitude of 500m after it starts to take off?

2) What is the average time for an airplane to reach the altitude of 30,000 feet?

Both are right.

The second one uses "the" if that altitude has particular significance to the writer in the text. The second one suggests that altitude may be relevant in the text, in which case, the "the" is used to make that fact salient.

-1

1) In this instance, the word 'fast' is incorrectly used because it is an adjective, which can only describe the plane. What is needed instead is an adverb to modify the verb 'does', such as 'quickly' or 'soon'. The second problem with this sentence is 'after it starts to take off?' An airliner doesn't typically 'start to take off', it simply 'lifts-off', unless you wish to count also the time it spends accelerating down the runway. Typically, people mean to start counting time beginning with liff-off. This sentence might have been rewritten:

How soon does an airliner reach an altitude of 500m after it lifts-off?

2)The only problem I identify with this sentence is the misuse of the article 'the'. 'The' implies there is something special about an altitude of 30,000 feet. So in this case, I might rewrite the sentence on one of two ways:

What is the average time for an airplane to reach the cruising altitude of 30,000 feet?

since 30,000 feet is often the cruising altitude for planes. Or,

What is the average time for an airplane to reach an altitude of 30,000 feet?

in this case changing the definite article 'the' to the indefinite article 'an'.

The zero article typically is only used with proper nouns and prepositional phrases.

The English language has many subtleties that many native English-speakers often don't observe in its common usage, so despite these errors, most people will parse the meaning of either of these sentences without raising any objection. What this implies is that you too may relax from strict usage of the rules in common speech, but not so much in academic writing.

  • I have voted your answer down but will upvote it again if you correct it. Fast in this context is an adverb, as in expressions such as drive fast ** or **run fast. Best check the facts before you answer to avoid embarrassment. You're also on dubious ground with your criticism of start to take off. When an airliner opens its throttles at the end of the runway in preparation for departure, it starts to take off. Google Books Ngram Viewer shows the expression in frequent use. dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/fast – Ronald Sole Aug 25 '18 at 23:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.