I read a sentence in a book, Word Power Made Easy, which was:

Sometime in your dim past, you were crossed, scorned and deeply wounded by a woman (a mother, or mother figure, perhaps?).

As there is a reference to "you" (your) in the sentence already, I don't think the article "a" should precede "mother" as the concerned person would only have one mother. Is my conclusion right? Amd I also want to ask what the verb "cross" would mean in this context.


The writer uses a because they want to say it could be any woman, and if it's a person's mother, they don't know whose mother, since they meant "anyone" when they wrote "you".

Compare it to:

When it's cold out, you should put on warm clothes: a sweater, a coat, or furry underpants, perhaps.

Note that the actual rules that describe when we use a vs the vs other choices to introduce a noun are very complex, although grammars often present them in oversimplified ways.

And, since your thought about the topic is leading you to confusion about the grammar, Yes, it's possible, in the view of most psychologists, that one injury could lead to a psychological defense like this.

The concept of defense is not explained very well, here, but I think it's meant to give a simple idea of the word's meaning, not a lesson on the topic.

But to scorn someone is to express strong dislike toward them, or lack of caring. If a mother told or showed a child that they dislike them, it seems easy to imagine that it could be very serious and traumatic.

It's probably easier to imagine something like a serious violent act or sexual abuse, etc., that migh lead to such a defense.

If you research defense mechanism, I think you could learn more about what it means.


"To cross" someone is to get into a conflict with them, to make them angry, or to oppose them in some way. Example: "I'm warning you now. Don't cross me, or you'll be sorry."

As for the article before "mother", I do see your point. The "you" being addressed in that sentence would normally only have one mother, so you could say that the words in the parentheses should be "your mother, or a mother figure, perhaps?".

But I think the author might have meant The "a" to apply to the category, "mother or mother figures", so the indefinite article would be fine, because there are multiple members in that group.

I'm not sure if the existing punctuation is 100% perfect or not, but if you were to lose the comma between "mother" and "or", that reading becomes more clear, at least to me:

Sometime in your dim past, you were crossed, scorned and deeply wounded by a woman (a mother or mother figure, perhaps?).

  • @LorelC- The sentence after this is- "so now you've a carefully constructed defence against further hurt; you hate all women". Does it then mean that the has started hating all women including his own mother. I am asking this because I don't think anybody would start hating his or her mother just because she has scorned them. – Kelvin May 29 at 2:17
  • That description, carefully-crafted, suggests that the author doesn't have a very deep understanding of defense as psychologists use the term. Defenses are unconscious processes. They are "constructed" by our mind-brain without awareness. – Jim Reynolds May 30 at 2:50
  • 1. There is no question about the meaning of cross. 2. There is nothing wrong with a mother in this utterance. People usually only have one nose, but it's still natural to say, Don't pick on someone bigger than you. You might get a broken nose, a black eye, or worse. 😉 – Jim Reynolds May 30 at 3:18
  • You might get "a broken nose", because that is the name of the injury, but would you "get a nose broken"? Not sure if people would say that or not. – Lorel C. May 30 at 3:39

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