I am very confused with this question and I wonder if someone will be so kind to take the time and try to explain this, because I can't find an explanation along these lines. When it comes to articles, one thing is to go by the rules and another is actual usage in daily conversations. When I'm looking at something like the text below, I get totally stuck and I have no idea how to explain why is it the way it is.

If this is not too presumptuous, I would like to ask someone who is very nice and patient to go a line at a time in these famous lyrics and explain the articles (why "the" and not "a"). I'll mark the ones that stand out for me.

First of all, why is the song called "Eye of the tiger" and why not "The eye of the tiger"? And why definite, why not "An eye of a tiger" or "The eye of a tiger"? Agh!!!

Thanks, guys :)

Rising up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance, now I'm back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive

So many times it happens too fast
You trade your passion for glory
Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive

It's the eye of the tiger
It's the thrill of the fight
Rising up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he's watching us all with the eye of the tiger

Face to face, out in the heat
Hanging tough, staying hungry
They stack the odds still we take to the street
For the kill with the skill to survive

Rising up, straight to the top
Had the guts, got the glory
Went the distance, now I'm not gonna stop
Just a man and his will to survive

  • 3
    Good question! I like learning languages from songs. For the title, we sometimes don't put articles in the beginning of a title of a work. I can't explain all the instances in the song, though.
    – hunter
    Commented Oct 8, 2014 at 16:35
  • So, are you aware that this song was written specifically to be the theme song for the movie Rocky III?
    – user6951
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 18:17
  • Ha ha! Yes, CarSmack, I actually knew that. Thanks for mentioning it. Apparently, they weren't able to get the clearance for "Another one bites the dust" so Stallone asked the band to write the theme song. I'm glad it worked out like this :)
    – Stefan
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 10:41

1 Answer 1


First of all - the song is chock-full of stock phrases. Those have a nasty tendency of not abiding to the usual rules of grammar all the time, and even if they do, most people don't even think about them. So take all the explanations here with a grain of salt - most of the time, it's just "people say it that way".

As for the title - it's not uncommon to omit an article there. It "adds a punch", so to speak - you usually want your titles to be short, memorable, sometimes rhythmic, and to the point.

"Back on the street" is an idiomatic phrase - generally it means "released from prison", but we can take it less literally in a song context. It's common for an article to determine whether a particular phrase is a part of an idiom, or should be treated literally - if you're "on a run", you're taking a jog, but if you're "on the run", it means you got in trouble.

"Went the distance" - singer refers to a specific "distance" (less literally - all the hardships) he needed to go through in order to be where he is now.

"The dreams of the past" - I'm not exactly sure here, but one often says "the dreams" when referring to ideals (like "the dreams of power"), instead of the literal "images seen while sleeping". And there's only one past (in this context, at least), so you'd use a definite article there.

"It's the eye of the tiger" - another idiomatic phrase (though I'm not exactly sure if it wasn't created by this very song). To "have the eye of the tiger" apparently means "to have a fierce spirit" - to "have an eye of a/the tiger" means owning a literal eyeball.

"It's the thrill of the fight" - referring to the particular thrill the singer is experiencing.

"Rising up to the challenge" - another stock phrase, plus it's specified that there's a particular challenge (of our rival) the singer rises up to.

"In the night" - there's only one night, like "the Sun", "the Moon", etc.

"In the heat" - as before, an idiom meaning "an intense period/situation".

"For the kill" - another idiom, meaning roughly "preparing to completely destroy somebody/something", not necessarily by murder (in this case - by winning).

"With the skill to survive" - referring to a particular skill, and emphasizing its uniqueness.

  • Thank you, Maciej. That's what I was hoping for. It does explain a lot. But speaking of "the moon", being only one, why does Sting say "There's a moon over Bourbon Street"?
    – Stefan
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 7:34
  • @Stefan I did not how to answer the moon question, so I asked it on ELL. A summary of the issue seems to be this comment. So, "a moon" refers to any of the ways "the moon" can be out.
    – user6951
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 6:05

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