0

So I have been confused with the use of the definite article when I write.

Here is an example from one of the English tests

Some people believe that there should be fixed punishments for each type of crime. Others, however, argue that the circumstances of an individual crime, and the motivation for committing it, should always be taken into account when deciding on the punishments.

Let me explain why this is confusing me. First, I think the article should not be used because those circumstances and motivation are general. it refers to circumstances of every individual crime. Those circumstances were not mentioned before and not unique. They can be any circumstances. Also, motivation does not sound unique either as well as punishments.

Why do they have the article? shouldn't they just be used without 'the'?

  • Are you confused because you think it should be argue that *a* circumstance of an individual crime or because you think it should be argue that *circumstances* of an individual crime? – DJMcMayhem Mar 24 '15 at 5:41
  • I believe it should be 'circumstances of an individual crime' because it is meaning all circumstances – Eugene Yu Mar 24 '15 at 6:01
  • "punishments" s/b singular "punishment". It is generally treated as uncounable, unlike "penalties". For example, one punishment could comprise several penalties. – Brian Hitchcock Mar 24 '15 at 8:08
0

No!

You are talking about the specific circumstances of any individual!.

Don't we say that a man decides 'right' or 'wrong' things according to 'the circumstances/situation' he is passing through? (ignore the facts of this sentence).

Here, an individual could be anyone, but then once we define that individual, we then talk about specific circumstances/situations he passes through.

We often say or advise someone...

It all depends on the circumstances. You simply cannot resist it!

When we define any case's results, we try to be specific mentioning the 'circumstances'.

So, 'any individual' but 'the' circumstances he's in, are specific!

About 'motivation' and 'punishment' in this case, again, any crime committed by anyone, but there should be some specific motivation (negative?) and the punishment for that is also specific.

I think we have to take this entire paragraph in a way that we have an individual (any individual) but then, we are talking about 'specific' situations wherein he commits crime being motivated by some specific reasons and then gets punishment.

  • Thank you for the explanation. So If I wanted to say that circumstances should be considered in general then the sentence can be like the follow? 'Others, however, argue that circumstances, and motivation, should always be taken into account when deciding on punishments.' – Eugene Yu Mar 24 '15 at 6:05
  • Yup, I think so. Because here, you are general and not specifically talking about an individual's circumstances. In my own example, if I remove 'you simply cannot...' and want to make the sentence 'general', I'll say... it all depends on circumstances without mentioning anyone/you/me etc. – Maulik V Mar 24 '15 at 6:12
0

If we read it without 'the' we get:

Some people believe that there should be fixed punishments for each type of crime. Others, however, argue that circumstances of an individual crime, and motivation for committing it, should always be taken into account when deciding on punishments.

To me, this implies that there are more than one set of circumstances for an individual crime. Which isn't true. If the author had written:

circumstances of individual crimes

it would make sense, whereas

the circumstances of individual crimes

does too.

Motivation is similar, because the other refers to 'it', not 'them'.

I think it should be 'punishment' not the plural.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.