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Don't lean against automatic door

Don't hold the door open

I usually see this kind of prohibition on the train. What makes me confused is why the first sentence doesn't use the and the second sentence does? I mean both of the sentences refer to the same door in the train.

  • Messages such as that are often "telegraphic" in nature, with "unnecessary" words omitted. – Hot Licks Nov 5 '19 at 3:23
  • @HotLicks So it's still correct if I say "Don't lean against the automatic door"? – user359347 Nov 5 '19 at 3:36
  • The first is in standard sign-language / headlinese, omitting non-essential words. The second is in standard English. If you have actually seen these very instructions, I'd say it's merely avoidance of over-lengthy instructions. Six words max? Five? – Edwin Ashworth Nov 5 '19 at 15:33
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Well in trains, there is one automatic door, so when they say don't lean on automatic door, they mean don't lean on any of the doors, even though it's grammatically incorrect.

For example,

Cardi B is a queen, but Nicki Minaj is the queen.

The "the" puts more emphasis.

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  • You're right, "the queen!". – Kris Nov 5 '19 at 7:48
  • Why the down vote? – Kris Nov 5 '19 at 7:48
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The first case is a reference to the special type of door, "automatic". It's a more "standardized" warning that one should not lean against an automatic door, any automatic door, for that matter. Thus, there's no article. It's also sometimes written: "Don't lean against: Automatic Door!". The idea is to draw attention to the distinctness of the door.

In the second, the reference is to the particular door in front of the passenger. So it needs the definite article.

HTH.

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