0

I don't really understand why we say

I have a daughter

using the "a" article. It's not a random person in the street, it's not one of my 78 daughters, this is the only daughter I have. I have no other family members, for example. Why would I still have to say "a daughter"? Is there any secret rule?:)

As I understand "a" can mean two things:

1) One

2) Some-thing\-body unknown, indefinite, some

There can be two situations when I have a daughter.

1) Me and my daughter are the closest people for each other. I don't have any other children. I help her with her work, she visits me twice a week, I know all of her secrets, her boyfriend, by the way, he is the coolest guy I've ever met, her plans for the future and so on. I know my daughter as nobody else. So, yeah, I have a(=one) daughter.

2) The last time I saw my daughter 20 years ago. Now I have no idea what she does, shere she lives, whether she has any kids even whether she is alive. I've not been having any contact with her for all these years. So, yeah, I have a(=some, unknown, indefinite) daughter somewhere.

And I am stuck with which variant people will understand if I say "I have a daughter".

2
  • I think it might help you to consider when and why a native speaker might say I have my daughter. Using a possessive pronoun as the determiner usually implies for one's benefit in some way - as, I have my books [to keep me occupied / entertained]. – FumbleFingers May 22 '20 at 13:11
  • 1
    No, it's not a random person, but it's someone that the person you are speaking to knows nothing about. You are informing them of her existence, not telling them how close to you she is (though you may go on to tell them more about her). – Kate Bunting May 22 '20 at 14:07
1

When an entity is first introduced into the discourse (other than by name), we don't use the definite article unless we are expecting the hearer to be able to identify the elmeent already.

So "I have the (anything)" is unusual except in a context where speaker and hearer both know that there is a particular thing that I have been trying to obtain or find.

0

To say I have a daughter means that you are the parent of a female (child).

It tells us nothing about the child except that you are her parent.

It implies that you have no other daughters - unless you go on to say something like ....who has done whatever.

So the statement is just about the sex and number of your (female) offspring.

That is why we refer to a daughter.

To say I have the daughter has to refer to a female child (who might since have grown up) who has already been identified in some way. For example:

Speaker A: >Somebody's daughter sang most beautifully at the concert.
Speaker B: >I have the daughter that you refer to.

This rule holds for any statement, whether about a person, other creature or object.

Just to say I have a daughter is not sufficient to identify her.

3
  • So, it's like new information = "a", old information has "the"? – Michael Azarenko May 22 '20 at 12:17
  • You could put it that way. To say, for example, that I have a dog or I have a house doesn't tell you anything about the dog or the house that identifies it. – Ronald Sole May 22 '20 at 14:15
  • But even here did I say correctly "new information = "a", old information has "the" or it should have been "a/the new information = "a", a/the old information has "the"? – Michael Azarenko May 22 '20 at 14:19

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.