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I made a poll regarding my sentence will sound natural or not in a forum. They could choose: Natural, A little unnatural, Unnatural, and I don't understand. (It has 4 options). And this is the sentence that I was asking:

He loathes everyone; I'm the instance.

I mean to say something like he loathes people and I'm also one of those people that he loathes.

A native English speaker voted "I don't understand", which makes me assume that my sentence is incorrect. Could you tell me why this is wrong? I've tried to translate this sentence into my native language and the translation makes sense as what I expect. At first, I wanted to use "I'm an example", but that sounds unspecific and that's why I use the article "the", also I changed the word with its synonym. Do they have the different meaning, by any chance? Thanks!

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  • They do have different meanings. I can't suggest an alternative, because I also don't know what you want to convey.
    – Riolku
    Feb 18 at 0:36
  • I'm the instance is meaningless here.
    – Lambie
    Feb 18 at 0:39
  • @Riolku added, thanks for your input
    – user516076
    Feb 18 at 0:42

1 Answer 1

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I'm sorry to inform you that, while grammatical, "I'm the instance" is semantically nonsensical in Contemporary English. I can barely even parse what it could be attempting to mean, but your suggested use of "example" helps me understand your intention.

Looking in a dictionary, it seems that the meaning you intend was last widely used approximately 300 years ago (wiktionary). In Contemporary English, the word "instance" can almost never apply to human beings, and most typically refers to various concepts in computing and video games, although it can rarely apply to other abstract concepts, such as in wiktionary's example: "most remarkable instances of suffering".

To convey the meaning I assume you are intending, you will need to use "example". The definite article will keep it from being too general, but you can intensify the specificity by using "prime example" or "typical example" instead.

He loathes everyone; I'm the prime example.

He loathes everyone; I'm the typical example.

These make sense, and carry a certain weight to it.

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  • Or you could say "... I'm a typical example" Feb 18 at 0:51
  • True. I added your suggestion to my answer. Feb 18 at 0:57
  • Thanks, but personally I would use "a" rather than "the" in both versions since there are other examples of people he loathes and "the", IMHO, implies only one person. But it's probably a matter of opinion. Feb 18 at 1:04
  • My feeling from the OP and how he specified that he didn't want the generality of "an example" was that he wanted to say that while he loathes everyone else too, he especially loathes "me". The way he loathes other people is a pale imitation of the way he loathes me, which is first and foremost the way he loathes. Of course using "a/an" would also work, and might be preferred in most situations, but I'm trying to best convey the meaning the OP intends. Or at least the meaning I think he is trying to convey. Feb 18 at 1:08
  • I take your point. Feb 18 at 1:19

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