I'm currently trying to understand if the following sentence breaks any rules:

  • I grab this hair band first thing in the morning to make sure that I don't have my hair on the forehead and nothing is in my way.

What bothers me is that it uses "my" when referring to the subject's hair and "the" when referring to the subject's forehead. However, does using "the" actually break a rule, besides sounding "off" to a native speaker?

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    As you conclude yourself, it's not natural. No native English speaker would use that construction. To avoid the repetition of my, you could rephrase the sentence. **......to make sure that there's no hair (hanging/draped/falling) over my forehead....) Commented May 9, 2022 at 13:32

1 Answer 1


English is very short on "rules" - we don't have a "Royal Academy of the English Language" like some languages do - but the forehead here sounds weird to US English speakers. My means "belonging to me"; the is ambiguous. Since your body parts are very unambiguously attached to you, the is a strange choice at best.

I will wash my hands: perfectly natural and fluent.

I will wash the carrots: perfectly natural and fluent. Even if the carrots belong to me, the is fine if we are referring to some already-known carrots.

I will wash my carrots: natural, but does put an emphasis on my that implies there might be some other people's carrots too, which I am not going to wash.

I will wash the hands: very strange-sounding, unless you are referring to some disembodied hands! It's OK if you specify who they belong to, like "I will wash the hands of the children", but this kind of construction is almost never used for things that belong to you.

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    British: I could imagine "I'll wash my carrots and chop my lettuce" (pronouncing a very short vowel on "my") while narrating the cooking process to someone else. In that context, it doesn't necessarily imply other people have carrots. When spoken, it puts it in a much more informal register than "I'll wash the carrots". Commented May 9, 2022 at 22:08
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    Interesting. Don't you say "He looked me in the eyes"? I had the feeling that OP's use would be similar, i.e it's obvious my hair are on the forehead attached to my body and not the one of somebody else.
    – Kaiido
    Commented May 9, 2022 at 23:03
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    Just to add here, some languages do use their definite article as OP has. E.g., in Spanish you might say Me lavo las manos, which word-for-word translates to something like I wash myself the hands. Using possessive for body parts isn't a universal rule, so wondering wouldn't necessarily be a "strange" choice. It's just an English convention that English speakers have picked up intuitively. Commented May 10, 2022 at 1:39
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    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. I mean, “I was hit in the hand” is perfectly natural. “I got hit in my hand” sounds maybe a little weird though, maybe? But other body parts wouldn’t; “I got hit in my arm” and “I got hit in the arm” are both fine. I mean, ultimately, it’s... whatever happens to match the things English speakers tend to usually say, which may or may not be “because” of anything. It might be better to say English doesn’t have rules so much as just patterns that people try to mimic, in a sense.
    – KRyan
    Commented May 10, 2022 at 2:12
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    @KRyan , Kaiido There's a rule there. In English we must generally specify whose part of the body we are talking about. However, sometimes a construction already tells us who got hit, punched etc and this person appears as the Subject of a passive type construction or the Object of an active one: "Bob got hit", for example or "The ball hit Bob." In sentences like those, we can add a Locative Complement, usually a preposition phrase, which tells us more specifically about where that person was punched hit etc. Because the owner of that body part is specified in the construction. .. Commented May 10, 2022 at 10:44

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