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I asked several questions about the definite article "the". Especially using "the" before user and mouse when describing an application was interesting to me.

I concluded it to myself that when I use "the", one can ask "which or who" and I should have an answer "the X which ...." based on the previous sentences, common knowledge, context.... You can consider it as the reader replies which

Let's give an example:

In the software, the user presses the left-button of the mouse and moves the mouse pointer on the main dialog box to draw a rectangle, then he fills the rectangle by choosing a color from the colors provided by the software on the right side ...."

Now:

Which software? The software we discussed in this article

Which User? any software has a user, and there is a user in front of computer, that user

Which mouse? any computer has one mouse, that mouse

Which button the left button of mouse (mmmm (or again the mouse?))

I think "mouse" doesn't need "the" here because it is general, if one asks which mouse? I can say any mouse

Which dialog box? the main dialog box, the one is shown first as you run an application

Which rectangle? The rectangle I already said about it, the one the user drew

Which colors? the colors provided by the software (it is in the sentence)

Which side? The right side, we have four sides I mean the right side


Let's test it again!

In the morning when I wake up and see the sun in the sky, I thank the God for being alive to live another day.

Which morning ?, It's part of a day, the early part of day

Which sun ?, the sun, how many suns we have? I mean the sun

Which sky ?, the seventh sky! It's obvious, we have one sky

Which God, I didn't use "the" I strike it throw, however we have one God, but English don't say the God, then be careful with your rule

Could this rule work in practice?

  • I would say "moves the mouse cursor" or "moves the pointer". – CowperKettle Jul 11 '15 at 13:53
  • Neither "mouse cursor" nor "mouse pointer" are idiomatic. You should use either "move the mouse" or "move the cursor." I would personally use "mouse" in this case. – CocoPop Jul 11 '15 at 14:49
  • @Ahmad You're on the right track! One crucial difference is that it's not you who "should have an answer 'the X which ....'", it's your reader (but when you're proofreading your own writing, you're your reader ;-). Another useful concept to deal with the definite article of English is "identifiability". Also useful: two basic rules in this answer of mine: ell.stackexchange.com/a/17433/3281. – Damkerng T. Jul 11 '15 at 16:03
  • @DamkerngT. yes, it must be clear for the reader, just in my answers I should use information which can be found in the previous sentences or the context and general knowledge – Ahmad Jul 11 '15 at 16:23
  • @DamkerngT. While I had your point in mind, I modified the post to reflect your point. – Ahmad Jul 11 '15 at 16:31
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You are basically correct in your analysis.

By the way, you do need "THE mouse" - every concrete singular noun (one that refers to a physical, visible entity or thing) needs an article, definite or indefinite. In this case you would say the "button of THE mouse" because mouse is definite by virtue of being known to everyone as an expected part of a computer. Alternatively, you could just say "the left mouse button."

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