27

Yes, your rewrite is acceptable. As for your confusion, it looks like you might have a case of DAMS (Definite Article Meaning Syndrome, a relatively common affliction that often affects English learners. It's chief symptom is confusion, generally caused by the erroneous belief that definite articles are only used for things previously referred to and ...


15

It would be perfectly correct to use the indefinite article (“a”) here, but the author (Ben Lerner) has chosen not to, instead employing the definite article (“the”). It's a very fine distinction, and the meaning is essentially the same in either case, but Lerner means to invoke the archetypal schoolboy. With this choice, Lerner is suggesting an ideal ...


12

Yes, you can, but in the context of your second sentence it makes more sense. Two zoo workers are talking: A. That old tiger can't be dangerous, it's hardly got any teeth left. B. Look, any tiger is a dangerous animal. Always treat them with respect. In a similar way, you can say While most are not serious, emergency room workers treat any ...


12

Constructions like that can be made, using the definite article to refer to a category of things - "the horse", "the television", and yes, "the totem pole". You would not then group such a thing "into specific categories". You might group it with other things - "the horse may be grouped with the zebra and the donkey to form the family of equids", but not ...


10

Both sentences are correct and understandable. To this native speaker, the first sounds more native-spoken, even though there may be interpreted as many dogs each having multiple tails. The second is more wordy and does not sound natural since we already know that dogs only have one tail. However, if the speaker further describes the tail then a would be ...


8

Courtesy of John Lawler, to whom this very question was posed 17 years ago (reformatted below): Definite Generic: the + Singular Noun The tiger is in danger of becoming extinct. Plural Generic: <null> + Plural Noun Tigers are in danger of becoming extinct. Indefinite Generic: a + Singular Noun *A tiger is in danger of becoming ...


7

Meatie, I think your guess here is exactly right, and it's an excellent observation. I had never noticed it until you pointed it out. Even though "type", "kind", "class", "category", and "set" are all synonyms, it is indeed unnatural to speak of "a member of" a type or kind. The idea of membership ...


7

You want to say "The tiger is in danger of becoming extinct." "The tiger" in this case is the whole species of tigers. You can't say "a tiger is in danger of becoming extinct." "Extinct" can only happen to a whole species. "A tiger" means "some tiger somewhere," so it only means one, not all the tigers. You can write "Tigers are in danger of becoming ...


7

No it does not make sense. A totem pole is a complete thing. You can't group one complete thing. If you are actually speaking about multiple totem poles and mean that there are different kinds of them (which is what I think it means) you could perhaps say: Totem poles can be grouped into specific categories, depending on their location and the occasion ...


6

"Bananas grow in a tropical climate." is also correct. It seems to answer the question, "What types of things grow in a tropical climate?" Whereas "Bananas grow in tropical climates." seems to answer the question "Where will bananas grow?" Really it's a poorly written exam question.


6

"The masochist" and "a masochist" mean two different things in this context. A masochist is simply a person who happens to be a masochist. The masochist is a type, not a person. "Is that your dog?" "Yes." "What kind of dog is he?" "He's a German Shepherd." But: "They tell me you specialize in dogs." "That's true." "Specifically?" "...


6

Your interpretation that it sounds as if the phrase is talking about "a general schoolboy" is actually fairly accurate. "Something of the schoolboy" is a specific form of the general phrase that can be used with any noun, thus: "something of the X." For "X" you can subsitute any noun. "There is something of the devil in that boy" would be just one example. ...


6

Without the article, the sentence would mean that a dusty wind always whips in the faces of humans; in other words, it would state that part of the condition of being human is that a dusty wind always whips in one's face. (We know that this is not the case, of course.) With the article, the sentence means that at this particular time and pertaining to this ...


6

Cats drink milk. Means more than one cat is able to drink milk. Cat drinks milk. as written is not grammatical in normal usage, because a singular noun needs an article. So it should be: The/A cat drinks milk. The only difference is the number of cats involved.


5

Use definite article, when a singular noun is meant to express a whole class: The cow is a useful animal for mankind The cow is an animal species useful for the homo sapiens (The) cows are useful animals for farmers Here you are talking about classes (the cow species, the mankind, the farmers): "the cows (all of them as a group) are useful for the ...


4

This is correct: Tom likes dogs with long tails. This one is also correct: Tom likes dogs with a long tail. Refer to this book on Google Books.1 Here is an excerpt: Have a good look at this chart from Google Books Ngram Viewer too: 1. Current Issues in Romance Languages


4

I don't even know whether there's a rule here. For what it's worth: Your first sentence is correct. The second one sounds kind of lame. That said, there may be exceptions, such as when the plural form doesn't make sense while the singular does. As in: I happen to like people with a good eye for architecture.


4

I am confused about the usage of the word "type". Take the following for example: A maine coon is a type of cat. which most people believe is correct standard English. But, dictionary definitions define "type" as a group with similar qualities. So, a "type" is really plural, not singular. This seems to make sentence 1 ...


4

Poor is an adjective. Sometimes we use an adjective such as poor as if it were a noun. But when we do, we mean the poor as a class of people, meaning the poor ones. Even without the word ones, the poor is considered plural. So we do not add an s to it. The ony way to make the poor singular is to put a singular noun after it: the poor boy. If you wanted to ...


4

It could mean either one of your options, and perhaps it could be nuanced a couple other ways as well. By the way, it's hard to take such a short English sentence and simply ask, "What does this mean?" Native speakers will invariably ask for more context. I remember an exercise one time where a professor asked us to consider what went through our minds ...


3

The correct way to say it would be "The Maine Coon is a type of cat." Using "a" instead of "the" does match common usage, but it only works because any one ("a") Maine Coon is a member of the type/breed 'Maine Coon'.


3

"Is a type of" already implies that it belong to the type, or group, of cats. In this sentence "a type of cat" means that the maine coon is one of the many cat subspecies, so it's not plural. I don't think the second sentence makes much sense at all. Maybe you can rewrite it as "A maine coon is a member of the cat type", but even that does not sound right ...


3

In these sentences you are using "the" to refer to the category of a thing, and so to say "I don't like going to the theater" is the same as saying "I don't like going to theaters". It's a little confusing, but using the indefinite article in 'I do not like a theater' suggests that there is one theater that you do not like, but ...


3

Commentors have noted that "hamburger" and animal names in the singular can be used as uncountable nouns. Let me assume for a moment, though, that this is not what you meant. Let's use an example that does not have this ambiguity: Right: He likes cars. Wrong: He likes car. In general in English, a singular noun must have an article in front of it,...


3

Joe plays the piano really well. Joe plays piano really well. As said by Alan Carmac and as explained in the answers to this question on ELU, neither of the two sentences implies a particular piano. If you want the linguistic term for this phenomenon, it is "generic noun phrase". Here are questions on ELL about generic noun phrases. In English, a ...


3

The statement from Twin Peaks includes the definite article: COOPER: Where do you come from? THE GIANT: The question is, where have you gone? The first thing I will tell you is: There’s a man in a smiling bag. COOPER: A man in a smiling bag… THE GIANT: The second thing is: The owls are not what they seem. The third thing is: Without ...


3

Now coming to the question - Recently i looked up in the internet as to: when is a definite article used ? It says - "We use the definite article in front of a noun when we believe 'the reader' knows exactly what we are referring to." I think this statement is a general statement about the use of definite article. My first question, Am i right ...


3

It is not ungrammatical to use the possessive in that context, but since you do not have a specific lizard in mind, it would be more idiomatic to say "I found a lizard tail under the bed". Or "I found a bird feather on the ground". Concoctions brewed up by witches and warlocks use the periphrastic possessive without article: eye of newt toe of ...


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