a(n) or Ø for a subject complement that is introduced

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HSS

Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
Hi, I'm just trying to figure out what makes the difference: (1) may take 'a' and (2) takes 'the' when in both cases the speakers refer to all the book/ tigers, and they are both a subject complement. I would really appreciate any and all your help ....

(1) This is a book I bought at the mall.

(2) These are the tigers of/from the Tamagawa Zoo.

(1)
Originally Posted by HSS
I'm still struggling with this issue. Just to make sure I'm getting there, I made up a dialog with the sentence 'This is a/the book I bought at the mall.' Which article sounds more natural to you? Or, is one or the other eliminated?
Susan: Hi, Jane. How are you?

Jane: Hi, Susan. Good. How are you?

Susan: I'm great! I called you yesterday afternoon around three but you were not there. Were you out?

Jane: Sorry, I was up at the Lakewood mall shopping. ... (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, this is a/the book I bought at the mall. I took a liking to it as soon as I read the first few sentences of the first chapter in the bookstore.

Susan: Yeah, I know, I can tell, Jane. This is the first time I've heard the book, but by just looking at your expression, I know you took a shine to it.
Forero replied:

To me it makes a difference whether the noun phrase in question is a direct object or a subject complement. I would not use the in this context, but in the original sentence I might use a or the.

By the way, I see all these relative clauses without relative pronouns as restrictive (i.e. defining) modifiers, and I share LV4-26's gut feeling. Somehow the definite article lets us summarize information, but with the indefinite article we seem to be explicitly separating bits of information. I notice that using the allows me to simplify the tense in the relative clause as if the event in the relative clause had been mentioned first:

I bought the book I saw at the mall the day before.
(like "I saw a book at the mall, and I bought it the next day." [not "had seen"])

I bought a book I had seen at the mall the day before.
(like "I bought a book. I had seen it at the mall the day before." [not "saw"])

(From one of my previous threads)
(2)
Originally Posted by HSS

This too have to be

"Look at the picture! They are the tigers in the Tamagawa Zoo. I caught all their tigers in this photo"

?
Myridon replied:

Withe no prior context, "These are the tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo." implies that all of their tigers are in the picture. The third sentence adds emphasis, but isn't necessary.
With no prior context, "These are tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo." implies that these are some of the tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo. The third sentence seems almost like a contradiction.

(From another of my previous threads)
 
  • Chimon

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    "The" implies that either

    1. the item mentioned is the only one in that category. (You only bought one book at the mall. If you bought more than one, I would suggest "This is one of the books...") Same with the tigers, if you say "These are the tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo," it implies that here in front of you are all the tigers that came from the Tamagawa Zoo. If there are more tigers somewhere in another exhibit, I would say "These are some of the tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo."

    2. You would ignore the previous rule and still use "the" if the item in question was one you had previously discussed and you are referencing that previous discussion. So, for example, if you had been telling your friend all about this new book you bought at the mall, (and you had bought several books but were only talking about one) and then later on you showed them the book, you might say "This is the book I bought." because the unspoken implication is "This is the book I bought [that I was telling you about]" and there is only one book in that unspoken category.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    "The" implies that either

    1. the item mentioned is the only one in that category. (You only bought one book at the mall. If you bought more than one, I would suggest "This is one of the books...") Same with the tigers, if you say "These are the tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo," it implies that here in front of you are all the tigers that came from the Tamagawa Zoo. If there are more tigers somewhere in another exhibit, I would say "These are some of the tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo."

    2. You would ignore the previous rule and still use "the" if the item in question was one you had previously discussed and you are referencing that previous discussion. So, for example, if you had been telling your friend all about this new book you bought at the mall, (and you had bought several books but were only talking about one) and then later on you showed them the book, you might say "This is the book I bought." because the unspoken implication is "This is the book I bought [that I was telling you about]" and there is only one book in that unspoken category.
    Hi, Chimon.

    Thanks. I really appreciate your communique. However, I was wondering why the speaker uses 'a,' not 'the' in the first and 'the' in the second when all qualified by the following modifiers (i.e. '(that) I bought at the mall' and 'in the Tamagawa Zoo') are referred to there in the introductory sentences (i.e. 'This is ....' and 'They are ....') as a subject complement.
     

    brightflame

    Senior Member
    HSS, it is clear that both in "the book" and "a book" a WHOLE book (or as you put it, "all the book") is being referred to. Here, "a" indicates that the book has not been mentioned before, not that it is part of THE book. However,"a book" indicates that it is one of many books we could be talking about, and "the book" indicates it is "the" one book that we are talking about (since we haven't mentioned any other books). It is best to think of it in terms of particularity, not simply parts of a whole, since it depends on context what the whole is.

    Compare:

    Hey, I bought some books today. The books are pretty good. They are books on philosophy (not all possible books, just some books on the topic).
    Remember the books on philosophy I told you about (not any books on philosophy, but these particular books that I told you about?) Yes, I remember the books. I thought you didn't like books on philosophy (I thought you didn't like books on philosophy in general, not these particular books).

    These are (some) books on philosophy.
    These are the books of philosophy I told you about.
    I bought (some) books on philosophy that were on sale.
    I bought (all) the books on philosophy that they had on sale.

    This is a book on philosophy.
    This is the book on philosophy I told you about.
    I bought a book that was on sale (one of the books that was on sale).
    I bought the book that was on sale (only one was on sale).
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Hi, Chimon.

    Thanks. I really appreciate your communique. However, I was wondering why the speaker uses 'a,' not 'the' in the first and 'the' in the second when all qualified by the following modifiers (i.e. '(that) I bought at the mall' and 'in the Tamagawa Zoo') are referred to there in the introductory sentences (i.e. 'This is ....' and 'They are ....') as a subject complement.
    Perhaps the confusion arises because you think that if something is a "subject complement" then it therefore requires a specific type of article. Did you find this "rule" somewhere or did you deduce it yourself? From this and the previous threads you will have realized that it is not true.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Perhaps the confusion arises because you think that if something is a "subject complement" then it therefore requires a specific type of article. Did you find this "rule" somewhere or did you deduce it yourself? From this and the previous threads you will have realized that it is not true.
    Hi, Julian. As Forero mentioned, the hypothesis is that if the noun is introduced and is a subject complement, you could (well?) use 'a(n)' even if it is qualified by at least a relative pronoun, and even if the speaker means all in the category, as in (1). (In (1), he/she may only have bought that one book)
    Sorry Quote (1) is only a part of the thread.
    I set up this new thread because the hypothesis does not seem to stand with (2) with a prepositional phrase, not a relative clause in this case.
     

    Chimon

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Hi, Julian. As Forero mentioned, the hypothesis is that if the noun is introduced and is a subject complement, you could (well?) use 'a(n)' even if it is qualified by at least a relative pronoun, and even if the speaker means all in the category, as in (1). (In (1), he/she may only have bought that one book)
    Sorry Quote (1) is only a part of the thread.
    I set up this new thread because the hypothesis does not seem to stand with (2) with a prepositional phrase, not a relative clause in this case.
    Whether a noun takes "a(n)" "the" or neither is not influenced by or related to whether the sentence contains relative clauses, prepositional phrases, subject compliments, or the predicate nominative.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Hi, HSS.

    I am not sure I understand what your question is, but the thread from which you are quoting my reply was about an interesting possible exception to the usual "rules" for using the. Chimon does a good job of stating those usual rules in #2 of this thread.

    (The exception in the other thread is only an exception in that the "previous" mention is not literally previous to the present sentence but included in it. Other exceptions occur in phrases such as "the sun and the moon" [there are other suns and moons, aren't there?], "the mountains in the spring" [referring to any mountains and any spring, not specific ones], and "the wrong train" [when there are other wrong trains], about which there are other threads.)

    I don't see sentences 1 and 2 in this thread as exceptions to the usual rules.

    Sentence 1 is valid, and if you change a in sentence 1 to the, you still have a valid sentence.
    Sentence 2 is valid, and if you remove the from sentence 2, you still have a valid sentence. It would not be valid with a instead of the because tigers is plural.

    The use of the communicates an idea from the speaker of the sentence to the listener. The idea is that the noun phrase in question names a complete idea.

    In sentence 2, for example, "the tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo" names specific tigers. Either there are no other tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo anywhere, or the speaker is leaving certain qualifications unsaid, probably because they are obvious (e.g. "you know, the ones being sent by train that I was talking about this morning").

    Without the definite article, the noun phrase is "open", i.e. variable. The only idea conveyed by not including the definite article is that the speaker is not intending to name a complete idea.

    In sentence 2 without the, there may be no other tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo anywhere, but the speaker is not saying that; and the listener may suspect, or even know, that these are the ones sent by train that were mentioned this morning, but the speaker is not saying that either.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Hi, Forero.

    Thanks for your message. Much appreciated.:)

    (The exception in the other thread is only an exception in that the "previous" mention is not literally previous to the present sentence but included in it. Other exceptions occur in phrases such as "the sun and the moon" [there are other suns and moons, aren't there?], "the mountains in the spring" [referring to any mountains and any spring, not specific ones], and "the wrong train" [when there are other wrong trains], about which there are other threads.)
    But I was focused on an exception using 'a(n)' or Ø article to the rules that normally require 'the' when the sentence is dealing with all that fall in the category or class or attribute the modifier defines. (I guess you read my query the other way around)

    In 'This is a book I bought at the mall,' 'a' is used although the speaker bought only the one book at the mall. If my interpretation of your statement in the quoted message of yours is right, 'a(n)' is used even if the speaker talks about all/the only one that he/she qualifies with a modifier provided they are/ it is just introduced there.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Hi, Forero.

    Thanks for your message. Much appreciated.:)


    But I was focused on an exception using 'a(n)' or Ø article to the rules that normally require 'the' when the sentence is dealing with all that fall in the category or class or attribute the modifier defines. (I guess you read my query the other way around)

    In 'This is a book I bought at the mall,' 'a' is used although the speaker bought only the one book at the mall. If my interpretation of your statement in the quoted message of yours is right, 'a(n)' is used even if the speaker talks about all/the only one that he/she qualifies with a modifier provided they are/ it is just introduced there.
    There is no requirement to use the in these sentences.

    The definite article is optional in sentences 1 and 2 even if we all know there are no other such books or tigers and even if we have just been talking about this book and these tigers.

    Whenever "This is the book I bought at the mall" is true, "This is a book I bought at the mall" is also true. Whenever "These are the tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo" is true, then "These are tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo" is true too. The book is a book; the tigers are tigers. We use the mainly to indicate the completeness/definiteness/specificity of its noun phrase.

    The converse, however, is not true. This can be a book I bought at the mall without being the book I bought at the mall, and these can be Tamagawa Zoo tigers without necessarily being the Tamagawa Zoo tigers.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    There is no requirement to use the in these sentences.

    The definite article is optional in sentences 1 and 2 even if we all know there are no other such books or tigers and even if we have just been talking about this book and these tigers.
    This, I'm not sure about. You have been talking about this book and these tigers, then in all probability you would have to use 'the,' wouldn't you?

    Whenever "This is the book I bought at the mall" is true, "This is a book I bought at the mall" is also true. Whenever "These are the tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo" is true, then "These are tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo" is true too. The book is a book; the tigers are tigers. We use the mainly to indicate the completeness/definiteness/specificity of its noun phrase.
    If there were no other such books or tigers, 'This is a book I bought at the mall' and 'These are Ø tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo' could only be used when the purpose of these sentences in the sequence of utterance was to introduce the book and the tigers for the first time, couldn't they? ('This is ...' and 'These are ...' themselves sound introductory anyway, don't they?)
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    This, I'm not sure about. You have been talking about this book and these tigers, then in all probability you would have to use 'the,' wouldn't you?
    No, I would not have to.

    The rule is that we would not use the when introducing something for the first time that is not all/the only such something.

    We normally use the because it "says" what we want it to, not because of any grammatical obligation to use it.

    Consider the following sentence:

    I saw a man with a big bushy beard at the mall yesterday, and today I met the man with a top hat.

    The speaker of this sentence might be trying to say that the man with the beard and the man with the top hat were one and the same, or that the man with a top hat has been mentioned or alluded to before.

    The following sentence says neither:

    I saw a man with a big bushy beard at the mall yesterday, and today I met a man with a top hat.

    This sentence might be followed by "It could not have been the same guy because the one I saw yesterday had dark brown eyes and the one I saw today had light blue eyes."

    Or it might be followed by "I had no idea it was the same guy because he had no beard this morning", or even by "Turns out, it was the same guy."

    We are not obligated to use the to connect with a previous reference, but we have that option.

    We would, however, not say "a same guy" because "same", by its very meaning, connects with a previous reference. "The same" is not just grammatical and idiomatic: the idea "same" logically requires the definite article.
    If there were no other such books or tigers, 'This is a book I bought at the mall' and 'These are Ø tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo' could only be used when the purpose of these sentences in the sequence of utterance was to introduce the book and the tigers for the first time, couldn't they? ('This is ...' and 'These are ...' themselves sound introductory anyway, don't they?)
    Not exactly. But they do sound more "introductory" than "Sean is going to give his brother ...."
     

    Chimon

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    If there were no other such books or tigers, 'This is a book I bought at the mall' and 'These are Ø tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo' could only be used when the purpose of these sentences in the sequence of utterance was to introduce the book and the tigers for the first time, couldn't they?
    No, you could use them anytime. At most there might be a slight tendency to sound somewhat introductory, but it's certainly not a rule.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Is it possible at all that

    (1) Jane says 'this is the book I bought at the mall' in this dialog, and
    (2) she bought that book along with other books there

    ?

    Susan: Hi, Jane. How are you?

    Jane: Hi, Susan. Good. How are you?

    Susan: I'm great! I called you yesterday afternoon around three but you were not there. Were you out?

    Jane: Sorry, I was up at the Lakewood mall shopping. ... (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, this is a/the book I bought at the mall. I took a liking to it as soon as I read the first few sentences of the first chapter in the bookstore.

    Susan: Yeah, I know, I can tell, Jane. This is the first time I've heard the book, but by just looking at your expression, I know you took a shine to it.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Is it possible at all that

    (1) Jane says 'this is the book I bought at the mall' in this dialog, and
    (2) she bought that book along with other books there

    ?
    Not for me. In fact, I would assume I missed a previous mention of this book.

    But consider "the mall". Even at first mention, we often say "the mall" or "the post office" when of course there are others, even when there are two or more in one neighborhood. Apparently we think of "the mall" and "the post office" as "universal" experiences, like "the beach" or "the stars".
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Not for me. In fact, I would assume I missed a previous mention of this book.

    But consider "the mall". Even at first mention, we often say "the mall" or "the post office" when of course there are others, even when there are two or more in one neighborhood. Apparently we think of "the mall" and "the post office" as "universal" experiences, like "the beach" or "the stars".
    I see ... Forero. With 'This is a book I bought ...' there could be either just one book or more, but with 'This is the book I bought ...' there should only be one book.

    I'm starting to wonder if a(n) could also be used if there was only that one book and if the book is the object of a verb (a recipient of the action):

    Susan: Hi, Jane. How are you?

    Jane: Hi, Susan. Good. How are you?

    Susan: I'm great! I called you yesterday afternoon around three but you were not there. Were you out?

    Jane: Sorry, I was up at the Lakewood mall shopping. ... (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, I've brought a/the book I bought at the mall. I took a liking to it as soon as I read the first few sentences of the first chapter in the bookstore.

    Susan: Yeah, I know, I can tell, Jane. This is the first time I've heard the book, but by just looking at your expression, I know you took a shine to it.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Not for me. In fact, I would assume I missed a previous mention of this book.

    But consider "the mall". Even at first mention, we often say "the mall" or "the post office" when of course there are others, even when there are two or more in one neighborhood. Apparently we think of "the mall" and "the post office" as "universal" experiences, like "the beach" or "the stars".
    So you would only use a(n) here? You wouldn't use 'the' here?

    Susan: Hi, Jane. How are you?

    Jane: Hi, Susan. Good. How are you?

    Susan: I'm great! I called you yesterday afternoon around three but you were not there. Were you out?

    Jane: Sorry, I was up at the Lakewood mall shopping. ... (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, this is a/the book I bought at the mall. I took a liking to it as soon as I read the first few sentences of the first chapter in the bookstore.

    Susan: Yeah, I know, I can tell, Jane. This is the first time I've heard the book, but by just looking at your expression, I know you took a shine to it.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Forero, Chimon, anyone,

    It looks as though a singular, introductory, subject-complement noun with a modifier (this is a book I bought at the mall) comes with 'a(n).' How about a singular, introductory, verb-object noun with a modifier (I've brought you a/the book I bought at the mall)? Is it most likely to take a(n)? Does Jane's showing the book to Susan when saying it make any difference?

    Susan: Hi, Jane. How are you?

    Jane: Hi, Susan. Good. How are you?

    Susan: I'm great! I called you yesterday afternoon around three but you were not there. Were you out?

    Jane: Sorry, I was up at the Lakewood mall shopping. ... (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, I've brought you a/the book I bought at the mall. I took a liking to it as soon as I read the first few sentences of the first chapter in the bookstore.

    Susan: Yeah, I know, I can tell, Jane. This is the first time I've heard the book, but by just looking at your expression, I know you took a shine to it.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I bet your answer won't change with the following variations, correct? And whether Jane is showing it or not, correct again? The nature of the sentence is that she is introducing a book with the attribute following it. That's, it seems, dictating the decision over the choice of the articles ... right?

    (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way)
    Hey, look, I'll give you a/the book I bought at the mall.
    (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, I'll introduce you to a/the book I bought at the mall.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hello, Hiro. I'm glad to see that this old thread of yours still has some life. :) I can't answer for Julian, of course, but I'll bet a nickel that his opinion doesn't change. I'd sure expect her to use "a book" rather than "the book" in this latest scenario. If she used "the book", I'd believe that she believed she had mentioned it to me earlier even if she hadn't done that.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Hi, owlman. How are you? Fine I hope.

    Thanks for your message. Okay, no change with the last two sentences. No change in them again even if Jane is showing the book?

    How about if the noun is a sentence subject? Again, does whether Jane's showing it to Susan when saying the sentence make a difference?

    Susan: Hi, Jane. How are you?

    Jane: Hi, Susan. Good. How are you?

    Susan: I'm great! I called you yesterday afternoon around three but you were not there. Were you out?

    Jane: Sorry, I was up at the Lakewood mall shopping. ... (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, a/the book I bought then just arrived when I left home. Dave brought it to me. He took it to his home accidentally. He phoned me up last night telling me that. The book is so interesting. You should read it too, Susan.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    "The" seems possible to me in your last scenario because she modifies it with "(that) I bought then". However, I'd still probably ask her "What book?" if she had never mentioned it to me before.

    I've heard similar dialogs between people when one of them believes he has mentioned something earlier which he hasn't mentioned yet: Hey, here's the book I was talking about. What book? Oh, I thought I'd already mentioned it. It's about...

    PS I'm fine, Hiro. I hope all is well in your corner of the world.
     
    Last edited:

    Chimon

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    I maintain that whether or not "the" is used is completely unrelated to whether or no the noun it is attached to is a subject or object or verb compliment or whatever else in the sentence. I think this line of logic is more confusing than it is helpful. You're trying to figure out "the" using the noun's role in the sentence, and I think you're going end up inventing some insanely complex rule about compliments and objects that actually has no bearing on how English uses articles.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I maintain that whether or not "the" is used is completely unrelated to whether or no the noun it is attached to is a subject or object or verb compliment or whatever else in the sentence. I think this line of logic is more confusing than it is helpful. You're trying to figure out "the" using the noun's role in the sentence, and I think you're going end up inventing some insanely complex rule about compliments and objects that actually has no bearing on how English uses articles.
    Hello, Chimon.

    I think this is rather related to whether the noun's role is to provide new information or not. I am looking at the possible use of the indefinite article with a singular noun and of Ø article with a plural noun for providing new information. It just happens to be the 'This is ...' 'I've brought you ....' etc. structures that we are looking into. Giving or introducing new information tends to call for the indefinite article or Ø article even when you are implicitly referring to all that the modifier defines. The subject complement, or the 'This is ...' construct, rather, sounds more introductory. That's why, I guess, I'm saying the subject complement requires a(n) for singulars or zero article for plurals. No, that's not exactly right. You are correct, Chimon. The part of speech has nothing to do with the choice. But the tendency appears to be the 'This is ...' structure, where the noun is a subject complement, etc. call for the indefinite article when introducing what the nouns mean. And the same thing is true with plural nouns with zero article.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Going back a little, even if Jane shows the book to Susan, you think she says 'a book' in both, Owlman?
    (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, I'll give you a/the book I bought at the mall.
    (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, I'll introduce you to a/the book I bought at the mall.
    And with this dialog, do you feel the 'introductory' tone is gone now that you are saying you would choose 'the book.' (Or, are you saying you would go with 'a book,' but 'the book' is just possible?)
    Jane: Sorry, I was up at the Lakewood mall shopping. ... (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, a/the book I bought then just arrived when I left home. Dave brought it to me. He took it to his home accidentally. He phoned me up last night telling me that. The book is so interesting. You should read it too, Susan.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I'm closer to the "just possible" position, Hiro. I'd find "the" in that sentence a little unusual because the book hasn't been mentioned before. A speaker like Jane with other things on her mind might use "the book" because she's thinking about a specific book regardless of whether the listener has heard about that book before.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I'm closer to the "just possible" position, Hiro. I'd find "the" in that sentence a little unusual because the book hasn't been mentioned before. A speaker like Jane with other things on her mind might use "the book" because she's thinking about a specific book regardless of whether the listener has heard about that book before.
    Got it, owlman:thumbsup:
    How about the other question, sir?:)
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I'm sorry, Hiro, that I missed the first question. I would expect "a" in both sentences: Hey, I'll give you a book I bought at the mall. Hey, I'll introduce you to a book that I bought at the mall. If the speaker is aware that I haven't heard about the book before, "a book" is normal. "The book" requires me to look for some unusual explanation.
     
    Last edited:

    Chimon

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Hello, Chimon.

    I think this is rather related to whether the noun's role is to provide new information or not. I am looking at the possible use of the indefinite article with a singular noun and of Ø article with a plural noun for providing new information. It just happens to be the 'This is ...' 'I've brought you ....' etc. structures that we are looking into. Giving or introducing new information tends to call for the indefinite article or Ø article even when you are implicitly referring to all that the modifier defines. The subject complement, or the 'This is ...' construct, rather, sounds more introductory. That's why, I guess, I'm saying the subject complement requires a(n) for singulars or zero article for plurals. No, that's not exactly right. You are correct, Chimon. The part of speech has nothing to do with the choice. But the tendency appears to be the 'This is ...' structure, where the noun is a subject complement, etc. call for the indefinite article when introducing what the nouns mean. And the same thing is true with plural nouns with zero article.
    Only because there is a tendency for those structures to be introductory, which means that there couldn't have been a previous mention, which is one of two situations in which "the" is used. But those structures are not always introductory, and there may still have been a previous mention, and there is a whole other set of situations in which you would use "the" regardless of prior mention, which means whatever 'rule' or understanding you come up with is going to have more exceptions than it has helpful uses.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I'm sorry, Hiro, that I missed the first question. I would expect "a" in both sentences: Hey, I'll give you a book I bought at the mall. Hey, I'll introduce you to a book that I bought at the mall. [...]
    Even if the speaker is showing the book?
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Only because there is a tendency for those structures to be introductory, which means that there couldn't have been a previous mention, which is one of two situations in which "the" is used. But those structures are not always introductory, and there may still have been a previous mention, and there is a whole other set of situations in which you would use "the" regardless of prior mention, which means whatever 'rule' or understanding you come up with is going to have more exceptions than it has helpful uses.
    I agree with you, Chimon. I'm just looking at one segment of the whole entangled world of article and noun uses, and am looking at a little at a time. Little by little.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I almost forgot to tell you this, Owlman. In all the examples, Jane did not buy any other book at the mall. You still use 'a,' right?

    (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way)
    Hey, look, this is a/the book I bought at the mall.
    (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, I've brought you a/the book I bought at the mall.
    (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, I'll give you a/the book I bought at the mall.
    (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, I'll introduce you to a/the book I bought at the mall.
    (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, a/the book I bought then just arrived when I left home.

    Hiro
     
    This is one of the most complex and extended discussions of 'the' I've seen on these forums. I wonder if any non-native is going to find out the supposed rules for 'the.'

    As I believe Chimon has said, above, there are multiple rules. The previous mention rule is not relevant. For this case, [first, post 38]


    (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way)
    Hey, look, this is a/the book I bought at the mall.

    I see no problem using 'the,' assuming that only one book was bought. This applies to some of the other examples as well.
     
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    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    This is one of the most complex and extended discussions of 'the' I've seen on these forums. I wonder if any non-native is going to find out the supposed rules for 'the.'

    As I believe Chimon has said, above, there are multiple rules. The previous mention rule is not relevant. For this case, [first, post 38]


    (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way)
    Hey, look, this is a/the book I bought at the mall.

    I see no problem using 'the,' assuming that only one book was bought. This applies to some of the other examples as well.
    Hi, there, Benny. How are you? Good to hear from you again.

    Could you please name the ones where you use (or, would use) 'the' when Jane didn't buy any other book at the shopping center in addition to #1, Benny?

    1. (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, this is a/the book I bought at the mall.
    2. (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, I've brought you a/the book I bought at the mall.
    3. (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, I'll give you a/the book I bought at the mall.
    4. (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, look, I'll introduce you to a/the book I bought at the mall.
    5. (She suddenly starts talking about a book she has never mentioned, touched upon, or implied in any way) Hey, a/the book I bought then just arrived when I left home.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I supposed the following from what I've observed. What do you think?

    Among others

    Hypothesis 1

    When introducing some thing(s) or person(s) to someone, the speaker would more likely use 'a(n)' for a singular noun, and Ø article for a plural noun even if he/she knows that he/she is referring to the only thing or person (all the things or people) that has (have) the attributes the modifiers define. This is because the speaker and the listeners do not share the same frame of recognition beforehand: No shared definiteness exists.


    Hypothesis 1-1: However, the speaker could also use 'the' here because, as the speaker imagines, the modifiers could provide the listeners with the frame of recognition that the speaker has spontaneously: Shared definiteness (where the speaker and the listeners can identify what the speaker is talking about) exists >>> 'The' implies the speaker is talking about the only thing or person (all the things or people) that has (have) the attributes the modifiers define, BUT NOTE THIS IS NOT ALWAYS TRUE.

    Hypothesis 2
    When introducing some thing(s) or person(s) to someone, and when the modifiers' role is supposed to be so significant, the speaker uses 'the' over 'a(n)' or Ø article when he/she knows that he/she is referring to the only thing or person (all the things or people) that has (have) the attributes the modifiers define because 'the' brings your attention to the modifiers. Hypothesis 2 supersedes Hypothesis 1.

    ex)
    (There has been no mention or implication of the lions that either of the teams caught) These are the lions that the French team caught in the research; those you saw in the film were the lions the British team caught. (You would not use Ø article herein because the 'that ...' clauses are important in comparison here)

    Hypothesis 3
    When introducing some thing(s) or person(s) to someone, and if the thing(s) or person(s) are inevitably existent or easily identifiable without the help of any other further mention --- therefore, the listeners share same the frame of recognition: the definiteness (where the speaker and the listeners can identify what the speaker is talking about) ---, the speaker uses 'the.' Examples of this are 'the beach,' 'the lakes (in Scotland),' 'the sun,' 'the windows (when talking about a house and talking about all its windows)' Hypothesis 3 supersedes Hypothesis 1.

    ex)
    (There has been no mention or implication of the beach) My family and I vacationed in Okinawa, and went to the beach with beautiful white sand and emerald green water.
     
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    I think you've made a courageous and reasonable attempt to sort out a messy issue where there are few firm rules.

    The rules themselves need minor corrections; in particular the sentence No shared definiteness exists is quite odd. Perhaps it could be put,
    There is no sharing of a definite reference.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I think you've made a courageous and reasonable attempt to sort out a messy issue where there are few firm rules.

    The rules themselves need minor corrections; in particular the sentence No shared definiteness exists is quite odd. Perhaps it could be put,
    There is no sharing of a definite reference.
    I see, Benny. Thanks.

    The speaker is talking about who caught what lions. If the French team caught more lions than are referred to here, and if the British team caught more lions than are referred to here, would you nonetheless say 'the' here?
    (There has been no mention or implication of the lions that either of the teams caught) These are the lions that the French team caught in the research; those you saw in the film were the lions the British team caught.
     
    No, you would not say 'the' and use the wording in your example:

    These are the lions that the French team caught in the research; those you saw in the film were the lions the British team caught.

    You would say, x: These are some of the lions that the French team caught in the research; those you saw in the film were some of the lions the British team caught.

    Or, as I think of it, you could just say, y: These are lions that the French team caught...;those were lions the British team caught.

    Well, HSS, there is an example of zero article. Good thinking!


    I see, Benny. Thanks.

    The speaker is talking about who caught what lions. If the French team caught more lions than are referred to here, and if the British team caught more lions than are referred to here, would you nonetheless say 'the' here?
    (There has been no mention or implication of the lions that either of the teams caught) These are the lions that the French team caught in the research; those you saw in the film were the lions the British team caught.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    My hypothesis 2 may not work if the speaker is not pointing to all or the only one in the class, or in the last example (These are the lions that the French team caught in the research; those you saw in the film were the lions the British team caught [not referring to all the lions either of the teams caught]), the relative clauses might not be significant enough ....

    Just crossed my mind, would you say "Those are Ø tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo"? James are the visitor are seeing three of the eight tigers.

    (James is showing a visitor around his work place, the Sendai Zoo)
    ...
    James: You know, we are closely associated with the Tamagawa Zoo in Tokyo. (With no prior context he starts talking about tigers in front of them) Look, those are Ø tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo. They have gave us eight tigers since 2002 as they have been downsizing their park.
    ...
     
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    HSS, i think you are on the right track as to omitting any article. You last sentence is OK except "have given us...".

    My hypothesis 2 may not work if the speaker is not pointing to all or the only one in the class, or in the last example (These are the lions that the French team caught in the research; those you saw in the film were the lions the British team caught [not referring to all the lions either of the teams caught]), the relative clauses might not be significant enough ....

    Just crossed my mind, would you say "Those are Ø tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo"? James are the visitor are seeing three of the eight tigers.

    (James is showing a visitor around his work place, the Sendai Zoo)
    ...
    James: You know, we are closely associated with the Tamagawa Zoo in Tokyo. (With no prior context he starts talking about tigers in front of them) Look, those are Ø tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo. They have gave us eight tigers since 2002 as they have been downsizing their park.
    ...
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    'Oooops' times three! (1) Yes, Benny, it should have been 'have given us ....' (2) 'James are the visitor are seeing ...' should have been 'James and the visitor are seeing ....' (3) I meant to ask a question regarding a situation where they are seeing all the eight tigers.

    Would you still say 'Ø tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo'?

    James and the visitor are seeing all the eight tigers.

    (James is showing a visitor around his work place, the Sendai Zoo)
    ...
    James: You know, we are closely associated with the Tamagawa Zoo in Tokyo. (With no prior context he starts talking about tigers in front of them) Look, those are Ø tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo. They have given us eight tigers since 2002 as they have been downsizing their park.
    ...
     
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    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    I was just wondering if you used the zero article for both sentences (if there was no difference between the cases with the relative pronoun clause and the propositional one)

    (The speaker and his guest are seeing all the eight tigers)
    (1) You know, we are closely associated with the Tamagawa Zoo in Tokyo. (With no prior context he starts talking about tigers in front of them) Look,those are Ø tigers that the Tamagawa Zoo has given us. They have given us eight tigers since 2002 as they have been downsizing their park.
    (2) You know, we are closely associated with the Tamagawa Zoo in Tokyo. (With no prior context he starts talking about tigers in front of them) Look,those are Ø tigers from the Tamagawa Zoo. They have given us eight tigers since 2002 as they have been downsizing their park.
     
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