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I have the following doubts regarding usage of articles in a sentence.

First Question :
I found the given below sentence in a book

There were a number of pretty girls in the party but it was ragini who remained the center of attraction

As per Wren & Martin's book explanation "Use definite article, Before a proper noun when its qualified by an adjective or defining adjectival clause" so would it be right to say that,

There were a number of pretty girls in the party but it was the ragini who remained the center of attraction

Second Question :

The principal asked the girls to return to the hostel before the sunset

As per book's explanation the above sentence is erroneous since it is wrong to use "The" before "Sunset". I am at a loss as why we cant use "The" before "Sunset".

Thanks in advance :)

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    If Ragini is a girl's name, then it should not be preceded with "the". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 4 '14 at 17:01
  • @TimRomano but it does not follow Wren & Martin's book explanation – Tarun Oct 4 '14 at 17:25
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    Incorrect, @Tarun. ...when it's qualified by an adjective or defining adjectival clause. The Great Houdini. The one and only Tarun. The unsinkable Molly Brown. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 4 '14 at 17:30
  • @TimRomano As per book this sentence is also correct "The Mr.Roy whom you last met last night is my uncle". – Tarun Oct 4 '14 at 17:54
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    This example assumes a conversation that went along these lines: Joe: "I went to the party with my cousin, Rob Roy." Mike: "Is that the Mr Roy I met last night? He seemed rather old to be your cousin." Joe: "No. The Mr Roy you met last night is my uncle, Rob's father." – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 4 '14 at 19:39
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One could say:

The students in Mr Smith's art class were at their easels, looking at the sunset.

In that case, the sunset is the object of scrutiny, and it refers to the entire western sky as it is lit up by the setting sun.

But when it is used to indicate a time of day, the idiom is "before sunset", "after sunset", "at sunset".

EDIT: CopperKettle's examples on the use of "the" with a proper noun are good ones. Here are some others in the same vein; perhaps we can extract the essence from them to show when it is appropriate to use "the" with the proper noun.

I do not know you any longer! What has happened to the gentle Henry Jekyll, the Henry Jekyll with the wry sense of humor and a fondness for good port?

Get up off your ass, Jones, and get back on that horse! Where's the do-or-die Jones, the gung-ho Jones, the let-me-at-them Jones who volunteered for this mission??? I don't like this new sissy Jones who is afraid to ride on a pony just because it's a little skittish.

  • that really answered my second question :) – Tarun Oct 4 '14 at 17:28
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As per Wren & Martin's book explanation "Use definite article, Before a proper noun when its qualified by an adjective or defining adjectival clause" so would it be right to say that..

What they meant is sentences like

I used to like the Ragini that diligently went to school with a book-filled backpack, and I really admire the Ragini that works at the hospital and saves lives.

By such use of the, we speak of Ragini as if of different persons, stressing the way things have changed.

The defining part becomes kind of glued with the proper noun, and the definite article has the effect of splitting up the meaning of the proper noun into different parts or aspects (from Quirk's Comprehensive Grammar, 1985):

The young Shakespeare ("Shakespeare when he was young")

The Chicago I like ("the aspect of Chicago").

Do you mean the Memphis which used to be the capital of Egypt, or the Memphis in Tennessee?

Quirk called such use of the article with proper nouns "partitive".

Let's take your example:

There were a number of pretty girls in the party but it was the Ragini who remained the center of attraction.

If Ragini is the name of a girl (one girl), then it's not OK to use the, because if "the Ragini who remained the center of attraction" were this "glued-together" thing, we would need to continue the sentence. Why? Because "the Ragini who remained the center of attraction" would equal "this kind of Ragini", simply speaking. So, to rephrase:

There were a number of pretty girls in the party but it was this kind of Ragini.

The sentence stops mid-air, with no conclusion. We would have to continue:

There were a number of pretty girls in the party but it was the Ragini who remained the center of attraction that was to be remembered by everyone.

But in reality, "remained the center of attraction" is not part of the definition of Ragini, its what she did. What did she do? - She "remained the center of attraction". Other girls did not remain the center of attraction, but she did. So in this sentence, "remained the center of attraction" is not "attached" to Ragini as her trait, it's just a description of what she did.

Someone with more knowledge in linguistics might explain better and simpler.

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    I really did not get the meaning of this sentence "has the effect of splitting up the unique referent of the proper noun into different parts or aspects" – Tarun Oct 4 '14 at 18:00
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    But this explanation does not explanation why the following statement is wrong : "the ragini who remained the center of attraction" – Tarun Oct 4 '14 at 18:17
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    I did not find the difference in terms of article usage between this two sentences "I used to like the Ragini that diligently went to school with a book-filled backpack" and "the Ragini who remained the center of attraction" – Tarun Oct 4 '14 at 18:35
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    I think this sentence will be incomplete as well "The Ragini"+ "that works at the hospital and saves lives" + ?. – Tarun Oct 4 '14 at 19:23
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    The phrase is the object of the verb "admire", but in your case " the Ragini who remained the center of attraction" is neither the subject nor the object of any verb except "was". Compare: "There were 5 buttons before me, but it was the red button." - the sentence is incomplete. The reader awaits further text because there's "but" there. – CowperKettle Oct 5 '14 at 2:59
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In your first question, we need to know if "ragini" is a proper name, title, description of a person, or ???.

In your second question, you would say

The principal asked the girls to return to the hostel before sunset.

but you could also say

The principal asked the girls to return to the hostel before the sun set.

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I believe CowperKettle's answer is correct, but perhaps not clear, given the number of follow-on questions. Let me try to phrase it a different way and see if this helps.

Normally, we do not use an article with a proper noun. "Regini was the center of attention", NOT "The Regini was the center of attention."

An exception to this -- the only exception that I can think of -- is when the proper noun is used with a qualifying adjective or descriptive phrase.

Sometimes an adjective is attached to a person's name almost as a title, like TRomano's examples of "The Great Houdini" and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown". Note that if it really IS a formal title, like "king" or "president", we don't use an adjective. "King John signed the Magna Carta", NOT "The King John ..." But if you added an additional adjective that was not part of his formal title, then you would use an article. "The famous King John signed the Magna Carta."

The adjective can be a single word like that example, which normally precedes the noun, or it can be a descriptive phrase, which normally follows the noun. "The beautiful and talented Sally Jones ..." "The Sally Jones who is beautiful and talented ..."

Sometimes the adjective simply describes the person. Often we use it to distinguish the person from some other person with the same name. For example, "No, not the George Washington who was president, the George Washington who is in our math class." Or similarly, to distinguish a person at different times in his life, or different aspects of his personality. "I want to see the old Brenda again, the Brenda who was fun and romantic. I'm sick of the Brenda who is boring and nasty."

Note that an article is used when there is an "ordinary adjective", but not a predicate adjective. For example, we say, "Harold is tall", no article. But "The tall Harold entered the room", yes article. That is, when the sentence is simply stating that a person or object has this attribute, using a word like "is" or "seems" or "becomes", we don't use an article. But when the description is attached to the person in the course of saying that he did something else or something else was done to him, then we do use the article.

Let me add that the article in such a case is usually "the", but not always. And all my examples have used people, but you could use anything that is identified by a proper noun. Like, "I remember an America very different from the country we know today."

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