a part of the/a body

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VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
Imagine two situations:
1) I ask you to think of and say a body part, like arm, eye, leg etc. I'd tell you then: "Tell me a part of the body".
2) Now, there was a big explosion, many human remains are under the debris. A rescuer says: "I've found a part of a body".
In both cases the/a body is mentioned in a general sense, but in the former it'd likely be 'the', in the latter -- 'a'. Though, 'a' could also be used in the former. Am I right?
Thank you.
 
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    In 1) the reference is to your body (or anyone's body). You have to say the body.
    In 2) the reference is to a body that has been found. It cannot be the body unless it has been mentioned before.

    If we talk about triangles, we would say Tell me the name of part of a triangle. Here the does not work, probably because triangles have difference shapes (more so than the body!). There is therefore no abstract meaning for triangle.
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    "Body" is being used in two different ways in your sentences. In "Tell me a part of the body," you are referring to the human body: a specific thing, even though not a particular example of it (not, for example, John Brown's body). In "I've found (a) part of a body," you're referring to a particular item, but the body itself is unknown and unanticipated. If you had found an entire body, you would say "I've found a body," not "I've found the body," unless you had been looking only for the body of a particular person.

    "I've found a part of a body," is awkward because of the confusion between "part" meaning "portion" and "part" meaning a particular component of a/the body such as an arm, leg, or pancreas. We'd be more likely to say "I've found part of a body" to refer to a portion of a body, and "I've found an arm (leg, pancreas" for a specific body part. Or "I've found several body parts, but nothing identifiable."

    [Cross-posted with e2efour]
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Thank you for the answers !

    If we talk about triangles, we would say Tell me the name of part of a triangle. Here the does not work, probably because triangles have difference shapes (more so than the body!). There is therefore no abstract meaning for triangle.
    To be honest I don't understand this example.:oops: Do you mean you would ask this question expecting to hear either "side" or "angle"? But every triangle has three sides and three angles. Then we can say "the triangle has three sides and three angles", right? That is, we can think of "part of the triangle". And why is it "the name of"? Or do you mean something different, not corners and sides?
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Perhaps Tell me something about a triangle is clearer. The triangle would be a particular triangle that you are looking at. However, a mathematics teacher might say Today we are going to look at the properties of the triangle (as opposed to the circle).

    As an abstract concept, it is a triangle and triangles differ in certain respects, some have hypotenuses, others are scalene etc.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    That is, do I understand corretcly it is:
    Tell me the name of a part of the body of the zebra.
    but:
    Tell me the name of a part of the body of a mammal.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I would say Can you name part of the body of a/the zebra? Zebras do not differ significantly between themselves, so the zebra is possible (meaning the zebra in general or all zebras).
    You could say A zebra/The zebra has distinctive stripes. Or Zebras have distinctive stripes.

    Can you name part of the body of a mammal/of mammals? I would not say the mammal, since mammals differ from one another, depending on the species.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Can you name part of the body of a/the zebra?
    In #1 I didn't say whose body part is meant, but it was clear a human was implied. Then, now, if we substitute 'human' for 'zebra' (since humans don't differ much too, except different races).
    Can you name part of the body of a/the human (being)? -- both are correct? right?
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Hi, GF. Yes, "part of the human body" is more idiomatic. But "part of the body of a human (being)" is met quite often in Google (the human is much more rarely). So, in this case the indefinite article sounds good here, right?
     
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