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  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?

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2 Answers 2

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He sees a fly on his leg. He saw a lady in the crosswalk. He saw the lady in the crosswalk.

on his leg and in the crosswalk are both prepositional phrases. They don't modify anything exactly though you might get away with saying these things are where they were seen, which means they are used adverbially.

a lady is non-specific

the lady is specific to a situation which is not described in the question.

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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.

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    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. Apr 22, 2019 at 21:08
  • on his leg and in the crosswalk are prepositional phrases.
    – Lambie
    Jan 21, 2020 at 22:58
  • @Acccumulation You are wrong: The lady in the crosswalk is not (for example) the lady on the sidewalk. It has nothing to do with there being only one lady. Also, the switch from a to the is right. If you downvoted my answer, you have made a mistake.
    – Lambie
    Jan 24, 2020 at 17:31
  • However: "He, on his leg, sees a fly." is pushing it.
    – Lambie
    Jan 24, 2020 at 17:31

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