1. He see a fly on his leg.
  2. He saw a lady on the crosswalk.
  3. He saw the lady on the crosswalk.

In #1, 'on his leg' modifies 'a fly'? Am I right? Can 'on his leg' modify 'see'? What about #2? Does 'on the crosswalk' modify 'a lady'? Or does 'on the crosswalk' modify the verb saw? What is the difference between these two sentences? What is the difference between #2 and #3? Does #2 mean there may be more than two ladies and he saw one lady? Does #3 mean that there was only one lady on the street?


First off, a couple corrections:

He sees a fly on his leg

See is the third-person plural form where sees is the third-person singular form.

He saw a lady in the crosswalk

The preposition in is more idiomatic here.

The way sentence #1 is structured strongly suggests that "on his leg" modifies "fly". To make "on his leg" modify "sees", restructure the sentence like this, using a parenthetical phrase:

He, on his leg, sees a fly

However, this is uncommon and unnatural phrasing. It's not even entirely clear just from the sentence itself how exactly "on his leg" modifies "sees".

Addressing questions #2 and #3, it seems that you've got the meaning of the articles slightly confused. The indefinite article "a" refers to some general, unspecified lady. The definite article "the" refers to one specific lady. Both articles are used with "lady" which is singular. The difference is referring to a specific noun or not.

Did he see anyone in the crosswalk? He saw a lady in the crosswalk.

Where is the lady? He saw the lady in the crosswalk.

  • 1
    If there's only one lady in the crosswalk, then "lady in the crosswalk" uniquely identifies the lady, and so the definite article is appropriate. If there's more than one, then which lady is not specified, so the indefinite article is appropriate. – Acccumulation Apr 22 at 21:08

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