A dog is the man's best friend.

homotopy07

Senior Member
Japanese
Here are two example sentences from a grammar book for Japanese learners of English.

(1) The dog is a man's best friend.

(2) A dog is the man's best friend.

[Question 1] a man = a person?

[Question 2] Is #2 grammatically correct?
 
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  • The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    (2) requires that you be talking about some particular man whose identity has already been established. (1) is a general rule about men and dogs.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don't like either. An individual dog might be an individual man's best friend, but "the dog" as a category of animals is not the same thing.

    If you are speaking about a specific dog and a specific man, then it is possible to say "The dog is the man's best friend". If you are speaking about a specific man (but haven't yet mentioned a dog), then you could say "A dog is the man's best friend". This is rather an unlikely scenario, but it is grammatically correct. If you are talking about a particular dog but have not yet mentioned a man, then you could say "The dog is a man's best friend", but this is even less likely than the previous sentence.

    The usual forms of the expression are:
    A dog is a man's best friend. [Both the dog and the man are representative examples of their species, not individual animals]​
    Dogs are a man's best friend. [Dogs in general and a representative man]​
    Dogs are man's best friend. [Dogs in general and mankind as a species]​
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    For gender-neutral use "person" instead of "man".

    I have not seen a gender-neutral version of this saying. But that makes sense to me. Traditionally (in the US) males like dogs, and females like cats.

    So the choice of animal for a life-long pet (a "best friend") is not gender-neutral. It is unusual for a male (who lives alone) to have cats. It is less unusual, bit still a little unusual, for a single female to have a dog.
     
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