More of us think marriage should provide the full buffet of satisfaction

This is a sentence I came across while reading Time magazine. Here is the use of "the" correct? Would it be wrong to use "a" instead? If using "the" is the correct way, could anyone please elaborate on why?

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    Not easy. There are examples one can find using 'a', but I wouldn't (I'm not saying I would use the expression at all, mind you). With fixed phrases / idioms such as 'the full monty', 'the real deal', '[go] the whole hog', 'the main event', there is an implication of extremeness that demands the definite article ('one of several main events'?) Here, though 'full buffet of satisfaction' arguably isn't common enough to warrant fixed phrase/idiom status, it's echoing this type of expression. 'The real McCoy.' Jul 6, 2021 at 13:26
  • What @EdwinAshworth said. I wasn't familiar with this idiomatic use of the full buffet of {metaphoric noun category} myself, but that's a link to many written instances of those four words in Google Books - *most of which seem to be metaphoric rather than literal. Thus, as an idiomatic usage, it's probably not really subject to normal principles of syntax/grammar. Same as no-one ever says they want a whole enchilada when it's metaphorical Jul 6, 2021 at 13:48
  • ... And contrast 'a smorgasbord of ...'. From Longman: << Those families would then be bolstered with a smorgasbord of visiting psychotherapists, tutors, speech pathologists, social workers and others. >> Doubtless (/hopefully) other smorgasbords are available. Jul 6, 2021 at 13:51

1 Answer 1


I would say that the usage "the full buffet of satisfaction" implies that there is only one "buffet" to be considered, that the author knows what it is, and expects the reader to agree. This usage is grammatical, and natural, but it subtly invites the reader to take an unstated opinion for granted. Hand the author written "a full buffet of satisfaction" thyat would have iplied that there are several, perhaps many, ways for a marriage to be fully satisfying.

In short, this use of "the" is correct, but it changes the meaning from what it would have been if "a" had been used instead.

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