a (the) disaster

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LQZ

Senior Member
Mandarin
Estimates of the costs of decommissioning a single reactor under normal circumstances run upward of $500 million, and the company faces the likelihood of huge liability claims from a disaster that has forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people. New York Times (subscription, free)

Dear all,

I suppose every reader would clearly know "a disaster" is specified the unclear accident happening in Japan, so is it possible to use "the disaster"? Thanks.



LQZ
 
  • Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    I don't think "the disaster" would be quite right here, at least not without a comma and a substitution of "which" for "that": "from the disaster, which has forced." There is a difference, however: this is a particular type of disaster, a disaster that has had specific consequences. If another company was thought to be responsible for a different disaster that also forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, it would also be facing huge liability claims.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Yes, it could be 'the' disaster.

    The choice to use 'a' is a rhetorical one. Here is my attempt to articulate the difference in effect: A disaster focuses attention on the description that identifies it: a disaster that has forced the evacuation .... With The disaster, the definite article specifies which disaster is being discussed along with the description that has forced. The difference in emphasis is a matter of degree, and is not absolute. This is my view, in any case.

    Added: Cross-posted with Fabulist and Parla.
     

    LQZ

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    Agriculture officials also plan to send a team of veterinarians into the evacuation zone around a stricken nuclear plant to check on hundreds of thousands of abandoned cows, pigs and chickens, many of which are believed to have died of starvation and neglect. ABCnews (no subscription is required)

    Dear all,

    Can I use a "the" to substitute for the "a" in above without changing the meaning? If not, could you please explain why? Thanks.


    LQZ
     

    LQZ

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    McDains is neither a haven of cool nor of upscale cuisine. Its Web site features images of a wood-and-Ficus-tree decor and its menu offers nachos and onion rings. It’s the middle-of the-road place where retirees, singles, couples and families might mingle. Which is precisely why it may have needed the ban. The Washington Post (no subscription)

    Dear all,

    Can I change the to a with the same meaning? Could you please explain to me? Thanks.


    LQZ
     
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