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How do you correctly choose article for "honour/honor"? For example, in the dictionary Collins I see these examples:

Michael said: 'It's an honour to finally work with her.'.

Perhaps as it is so close to noon, you would do me the honour of having lunch with me.

Why do we have the different articles here? What's the difference?

And my example:

To be drafted into the army is an honor for everyone.

As I see it from NGram, "is the honour for" is used very rarely, but NGram2 "is the honor for" isn't used. Is it because everyone has their own honor and honors can't be the same or why?

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    The speaker identifies having lunch with that person as a specific honour. Similarly, Michael could have said "At last I have the honour of working with her." Jul 29, 2021 at 14:07
  • @Kate Bunting:, Why is it necessary for the speaker to separate a specific and non-specific honour? Why is it usefully?
    – Sergei
    Jul 29, 2021 at 19:58

2 Answers 2

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It differentiates between a conceptual honour (an) and a specific one (the).

Presenting the prizes at the school fete is an honour.

It's one of many possible honours.

I had the honour of presenting the prizes at the school fete.

This time it focusses on the particular case you're looking at.

You can use "delight" in the same way.

It was a delight to see her doing so well.
The delight of meeting her caused him to smile.

In general if you're saying something is/has been/will be you'd use "an honour".

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    Stanley didn't, but he could have said Doctor Livingstone, isn't it? I haven't had the pleasure (where the specific unstated "enjoyment" is the pleasure of meeting you). Jul 29, 2021 at 17:03
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The use of articles here is much the same as it is anywhere else: referring to something as specific or nonspecific.

It's an honour to work with her: there are many honours, and this is one of them.

Do me the honour of having lunch with me: we are talking about one specific honor.


In your example about "To be drafted into the army is an honour for everyone", the same principle applies: there are many possible honours, but being drafted into the army is just one of them. Idiomatically, we rarely say "the honour for X", probably because that implies that there is only one specific honour that we are talking about but we're not saying what it is, and because we usually say that something specific is an honour to someone.

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  • :, I can't understand why "It's an honour to work with her." isn't specific honour, but "Do me the honour of having lunch with me." is specific one. I can't see the difference in the essence of these actions that it's necessary to use a different article.
    – Sergei
    Jul 29, 2021 at 19:53
  • Why is it necessary for the speaker to separate a specific and non-specific honor? How is it useful?
    – Sergei
    Jul 29, 2021 at 20:02
  • @Sergey "Why is it necessary for the speaker to separate a specific and non-specific honor? How is it useful?" I am guessing that your native language does not include articles like English has. Articles are used throughout English to indicate specificity or non-specificity of almost everything. "Do you like apples?" (apples in general) "There is an apple on the table." (one of many possible apples) "Bring me the apple." (the specific one that I mentioned before).
    – stangdon
    Jul 29, 2021 at 20:35
  • :, All is clearly with apples, thanks. )) But look at these sentences: Michael said: 'It's an honour to finally work with her.'. / Michael said: 'It's the honour to finally work with her.'. What does it mean in essence? Does it mean that in the first sentence there is a slight hint that Michael could work with another person? It can be like a lark/irony, can't it?
    – Sergei
    Jul 30, 2021 at 5:22
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    Michael would only say 'It's the honour...' if it had already been mentioned in the conversation - 'the honour I previously referred to'. That's just the way the language works. Jul 30, 2021 at 7:49

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