# a / the demonstration

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#### VicNicSor

##### Banned
Seth's describing the process of eating solid food as a fly does. Then he says:
-- Ready for a demonstration, kids? Here goes.
After which he's demonstrating the process, recording it on video.
The Fly, movie

Isn't it a specific demonstration? The demonstration of the before-described process? Shouldn't there be the definite article? As in this instance with "the calculations".
Thank you.

• #### RedwoodGrove

##### Senior Member
It's only one of many potential demonstrations. Compare:

#### VicNicSor

##### Banned
It's only one of many potential demonstrations. Compare:

Sorry, what makes your demonstration only one potential? I can't imagine context for this...

#### Barque

##### Banned
It's like saying "I'm going for a walk". It's one of many walks you could go for, though you are referring to a specific walk that you plan to go for.

#### RedwoodGrove

##### Senior Member
You have to limit it actively. The phrase "of a lifetime" limits it to only one out of an entire lifetime. Otherwise there are many moments ahead in which this "demonstration" could be repeated. The context of "one out of many" is assumed unless you limit it to only one.

#### RedwoodGrove

##### Senior Member
It's like saying "I'm going for a walk". It's one of many walks you could go for, though you are referring to a specific walk that you plan to go for.

#### VicNicSor

##### Banned
It's like saying "I'm going for a walk". It's one of many walks you could go for, though you are referring to a specific walk that you plan to go for.
A walk is not related to anything, unlike the demonstration in question, which is one of the process just described.
You have to limit it actively. The phrase "of a lifetime" limits it to only one out of an entire lifetime. Otherwise there are many moments ahead in which this "demonstration" could be repeated. The context of "one out of many" is assumed unless you limit it to only one.
The problem is I don't understand what could the demonstration of a lifetime mea at all.

But I think now there's really nothing wrong with the OP

Thank you everyone.

#### RedwoodGrove

##### Senior Member
The problem is I don't understand what could the demonstration of a lifetime mea at all.
Sorry, that's a generic phrase that Americans of a certain generation are familiar with. It's the kind of talk that you would hear from salesmen at county fairs where they are selling you something you've "never seen before".

#### Barque

##### Banned
A walk is not related to anything, unlike the demonstration in question, which is one of the process just described.
The principle is the same, Vic.

But I think now there's really nothing wrong with the OP
Do you mean you now agree that "a" is fine or that you still feel it should be "the"?

#### RedwoodGrove

##### Senior Member
There is no inherent distinction between the definite and indefinite articles. There is no distinction that was laid down at the beginning of existence which stretches forth for all time. If you wanted to, and had the power, you could turn English into Russian or Chinese in a couple of generations, without these distinctions. The only way you can make these distinctions is by immersing yourself in English as it is used now and as it has been used for generations. Some of us here provide examples, and, yes, they can be argued with. They are merely examples, however.

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#### Andygc

##### Senior Member
Vic, you are back in the swamp of optional articles.

Ready for a demonstration, kids? What I'm describing needs a demonstration, so I'll give you one. I planned to, and you expected me to.
Ready for the demonstration, kids? What I'm describing needs a demonstration, so I'll give you the one which I planned to give you and which you all expected.

Seth could have said either, and although we can describe a difference in meaning by applying grammatical "rules", in reality there is no difference whatsoever in the actual and intended underlying meaning.

#### Barque

##### Banned
Seth could have said either,.....in reality there is no difference whatsoever in the actual and intended underlying meaning.
I'm surprised to hear you say that, Andy. In the situation described by the OP, I'd have thought that "the" would be appropriate only if there had been some earlier indication to the kids that a demonstration would be given.

#### Andygc

##### Senior Member
Why surprised? I explained my reasons. In this context there's no reason to not use "the". There doesn't have to have been prior reference to a demonstration for one to be expected. Explaining to children something as delightful as a fly eating solid food begs a demonstration.

#### Glenfarclas

##### Senior Member
In this context there's no reason to not use "the".
If he hadn't mentioned a demonstration, and there's no reason for them to have expected a particular demonstration, then it would be strange to use "the."

"I can wiggle my ears."
-"Could you give me the demonstration?"

#### VicNicSor

##### Banned
Do you mean you now agree that "a" is fine

There is no inherent distinction between the definite and indefinite articles. There is no distinction that was laid down at the beginning of existence and which stretches forth for all time. If you wanted to, and had the power, you could turn English into Russian or Chinese in a couple of generations, without these distinctions. The only way you can make these distinctions is by immersing yourself in English as it is used now and as it has been used for generations. Some of us here provide examples, and, yes, they can be argued with. They are merely examples, however.
To me, there is English and there is the articles. Two different things. Imagine English with no articles or Russian with those articles. It just so happened that articles are used in English and not in Russian. Except the articles, English and Russian are quite much alike, to me at least (because I know many Russians have difficulties with and worry much about, e.g., the perfect forms of the tenses. Although in Russian there are also perfect and imperfect verbs)
Ready for the demonstration, kids? What I'm describing needs a demonstration, so I'll give you the one which I planned to give you and which you all expected.
Yes, but the blue part is not actually said, so the kids wouldn't know that that demonstration was "the one which I planned to give you and which you all expected", they would have to guess what is specific about it.

X-posted with Glen

#### Andygc

##### Senior Member
Glen, sorry, but that's a facile example. I'm responding to the context given in the OP, not to somebody who can wiggle his ears. If somebody was describing in detail to a group of children how flies eat solids and went on to an equally revolting demonstration, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he said "Ready for the demonstration, kids?"

Vic, all I was doing there was pointing out what the meaning could be thought to be if you apply "rules" to the meanings of the articles. In the situation in the OP, the children would be in no doubt what the demonstation would be, and using "the" or "a" would make not the slightest difference.

#### VicNicSor

##### Banned
If somebody was describing in detail to a group of children how flies eat solids and went on to an equally revolting demonstration, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he said "Ready for the demonstration, kids?"
I believe that's similar to the reason, I had in mind starting the thread, for justifying the definite article here

#### Glenfarclas

##### Senior Member
If somebody was describing in detail to a group of children how flies eat solids and went on to an equally revolting demonstration, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he said "Ready for the demonstration, kids?"
Only if they would reasonably expect a demonstration at that point, or if the speaker wanted to imply that it's natural to have a demonstration then. I don't see any call for it here.

#### RedwoodGrove

##### Senior Member
To me, there is English and there is the articles. Two different things. Imagine English with no articles or Russian with those articles. It just so happened that articles are used in English and not in Russian. Except the articles, English and Russian are quite much alike, to me at least (because I know many Russians have difficulties with and worry much about, e.g., the perfect forms of the tenses. Although in Russian there are also perfect and imperfect verbs)
Interesting. I have no real exposure to Russian. Virtually none, as a matter of fact. Interesting that Russian has the verb tenses but not the articles. I will be perfectly honest with you when I say that in my opinion most English speakers are made rather uncomfortable if they have to explain the difference between the definite and indefinite articles. It is a tenuous arrangement in which sometimes it is abundantly clear which should be used and sometimes it is not. Unfortunately, the long, hard task for you is to expose yourself to enough English that you start to feel competent to pass judgment on when either (or neither) is used. Or it can be a quest.

#### VicNicSor

##### Banned
Interesting. I have no real exposure to Russian. Virtually none, as a matter of fact. Interesting that Russian has the verb tenses but not the articles.
Ok, it was rather a very rough generalization (when I said "quite much alike"), it's not clear what I meant, so please just forget it.
the long, hard task for you is to expose yourself to enough English that you start to feel
I'm trying

#### Wordsmyth

##### Senior Member
Vic, you are back in the swamp of optional articles.
[...]
Seth could have said either, and although we can describe a difference in meaning by applying grammatical "rules", in reality there is no difference whatsoever in the actual and intended underlying meaning.
I'm surprised to hear you say that, Andy. In the situation described by the OP, I'd have thought that "the" would be appropriate only if there had been some earlier indication to the kids that a demonstration would be given.
There doesn't have to have been prior reference to a demonstration for one to be expected.
I agree with Andy. For the purposes of simplifying teaching, it's often said that "the" is used to refer back to something already mentioned. That's often the case, but the choice of article may also be driven by a speaker's perception, and not necessarily by an explicit previous mention. I'm pretty certain I've raised that in other threads you've started, Vic (back when you were Vik).

I see the case we're discussing here as something like this. With "Ready for a demonstration, kids?", Seth is introducing the idea of doing a demonstration, without presupposing that a demonstration is necessarily an automatic follow-on to his description ('At this point, I could do a useful demonstration'). If he'd said "Ready for the demonstration, kids?", it would have suggested that he was thinking of the demonstration that he had in mind as an automatic adjunct to his verbal description ('Here comes the demonstration that goes with my explanation').

The article he uses would reflect his own perception of the demonstration (even if in both cases his intention to do the demo is the same). I'm not saying that that analysis would apply in every case, but it's how I read this particular one.
Yes, but the blue part is not actually said, so the kids wouldn't know that that demonstration was "the one which I planned to give you and which you all expected", they would have to guess what is specific about it.
If you look at it the other way round (I mean the positive information in the statement rather than the information that's missing), the fact of saying "the demonstration" tells the listeners that there is something specific about it, and that the most likely 'something' would be that the demo is 'the one which I planned to give you' or 'the one you'd expect to be given'.

Ws

#### VicNicSor

##### Banned
I'm pretty certain I've raised that in other threads you've started, Vic (back when you were Vik).
... one of them about lathe I remember

Thank you everyone!

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